Responses of great reed warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus to experimental brood parasitism: The effects of a cuckoo Cuculus canorus dummy and egg mimicry

István Bártol, Zsolt Karcza, C. Moskát, Eivin Røskaft, T. Kisbenedek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

84 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Egg rejection behaviour towards parasitic eggs was studied in a great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus population in central Hungary, which was heavily (about 65%) parasitised by the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus. Clutches were experimentally parasitised during the egg-laying period with artificial, moderately mimetic cuckoo eggs or with conspecific eggs that were good mimics of the hosts' eggs. Great reed warblers rejected 76.2% of the artificial cuckoo eggs, mainly by ejection, but accepted most of the conspecific eggs (87.5%). Cuckoo eggs in naturally parasitised clutches were rejected at a lower rate (32%). When, in addition to the egg mimicry experiments, a stuffed cuckoo was placed near the nest, accompanied by the recording of a female cuckoo call, hosts' rejection rate of the artificial cuckoo egg increased from 76% to 96%. The sight of the cuckoo, on the other hand, did not influence host's rejection behaviour when a conspecific egg was used in the experiment. A stuffed collared dove Streptopelia decaocto, accompanied by its call, was used as a control, and did not cause any increased rejection. Great reed warblers were more aggressive towards the cuckoo than to the dove dummy. When the cuckoo eggs in naturally parasitised clutches were exchanged with artificial cuckoo eggs, we observed no increase in the rejection rate. We conclude that great reed warblers in our heavily parasitised population are capable of detecting brood parasitism in their clutch by identifying the parasitic egg. The efficiency of this identification depends mainly on the mimicry of the foreign egg. The sight of the cuckoo at the nest may increase rejection rate by stimulus summation, and this conditional effect is mainly affected by the degree of mimicry of the parasitic egg.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-425
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002

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Cuculus canorus
brood parasitism
mimicry (behavior)
mimicry
egg
doves
nests
Streptopelia
Hungary
oviposition
Acrocephalus arundinaceus
effect
reed
nest
egg rejection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Responses of great reed warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus to experimental brood parasitism : The effects of a cuckoo Cuculus canorus dummy and egg mimicry. / Bártol, István; Karcza, Zsolt; Moskát, C.; Røskaft, Eivin; Kisbenedek, T.

In: Journal of Avian Biology, Vol. 33, No. 4, 12.2002, p. 420-425.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "Egg rejection behaviour towards parasitic eggs was studied in a great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus population in central Hungary, which was heavily (about 65{\%}) parasitised by the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus. Clutches were experimentally parasitised during the egg-laying period with artificial, moderately mimetic cuckoo eggs or with conspecific eggs that were good mimics of the hosts' eggs. Great reed warblers rejected 76.2{\%} of the artificial cuckoo eggs, mainly by ejection, but accepted most of the conspecific eggs (87.5{\%}). Cuckoo eggs in naturally parasitised clutches were rejected at a lower rate (32{\%}). When, in addition to the egg mimicry experiments, a stuffed cuckoo was placed near the nest, accompanied by the recording of a female cuckoo call, hosts' rejection rate of the artificial cuckoo egg increased from 76{\%} to 96{\%}. The sight of the cuckoo, on the other hand, did not influence host's rejection behaviour when a conspecific egg was used in the experiment. A stuffed collared dove Streptopelia decaocto, accompanied by its call, was used as a control, and did not cause any increased rejection. Great reed warblers were more aggressive towards the cuckoo than to the dove dummy. When the cuckoo eggs in naturally parasitised clutches were exchanged with artificial cuckoo eggs, we observed no increase in the rejection rate. We conclude that great reed warblers in our heavily parasitised population are capable of detecting brood parasitism in their clutch by identifying the parasitic egg. The efficiency of this identification depends mainly on the mimicry of the foreign egg. The sight of the cuckoo at the nest may increase rejection rate by stimulus summation, and this conditional effect is mainly affected by the degree of mimicry of the parasitic egg.",
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