European Cuckoo Cuculus canorus parasitism and host's rejection behaviour in a heavily parasitized Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus population

C. Moskát, Marcel Honza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

110 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

An unusually high frequency (64%) of European Cuckoo Cuculus canorus parasitism was found in Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus clutches in central Hungary. Sixty-four per cent of the parasitized clutches contained one Cuckoo egg, 23% contained two, 10% had three and 3% had four. This means that 58% of the Cuckoo eggs were found in multiply parasitized clutches. In multiple parasitism the laying second Cuckoo removed an egg from the clutch randomly, so preferred neither the host eggs, nor the concurrent Cuckoo egg. Host response towards the parasitic eggs showed 66% acceptance, 12% ejection, 20% desertion and 2% egg burial. We found great variation in both the host and the parasitic egg colour and pattern. This reduces the chance that the parasitic egg's appearance matched that of the hosts' but, in spite of this, almost perfect mimesis was found in 28% of the Cuckoo eggs. Poorly mimetic Cuckoo eggs were more frequently rejected by Great Reed Warblers than parasite eggs that were very similar to the host eggs. This high level of mimicry sometimes makes it difficult for the observer to identify the parasitic egg, especially when it is similar in size to the host eggs. It is also difficult for the host, as shown by the relatively high recognition error and ejection cost.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-622
Number of pages9
JournalIbis
Volume144
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002

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Cuculus canorus
parasitism
egg
multiparasitism
mimicry (behavior)
Acrocephalus arundinaceus
reed
Hungary
parasites
color
mimicry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

European Cuckoo Cuculus canorus parasitism and host's rejection behaviour in a heavily parasitized Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus population. / Moskát, C.; Honza, Marcel.

In: Ibis, Vol. 144, No. 4, 10.2002, p. 614-622.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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