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The broken-wing display across birds and the conditions for its evolution


Francis, Clinton; de Framond, Léna; Brumm, Henrik (2022), The broken-wing display across birds and the conditions for its evolution, Dryad, Dataset,


The broken-wing display is a well-known and conspicuous deceptive signal used to protect birds’ broods against diurnal terrestrial predators. Although commonly associated with shorebirds, it remains unknown how common the behaviour is across birds and what forces are associated with the evolution of the display. Here, we use the broken-wing display as a paradigmatic example to study the evolution of a behaviour across Aves. We show that the display is widespread: it has been described in 52 families spread throughout the phylogeny, suggesting that it independently evolved multiple times. Further, we evaluated the association with sixteen ecological and life-history variables hypothesized to be related to the evolution of the broken-wing display. Eight variables were associated with the display. We found that species breeding farther from the equator, in more dense environments, with shorter incubation periods and relatively little nest cover were more likely to perform the display, as were those in which only one parent incubates eggs, species that mob nest predators and species that are altricial or multi-brooded. Collectively, our comprehensive approach identified forces associated with the repeated evolution of this conspicuous display, thereby providing new insights into how deceptive behaviours evolve in the context of predator-prey interactions.


Data included in this dataset were assembled from existing sources as described in the resulting publication and in the ReadMe file.

Usage Notes

See the ReadMe file for a detailed account of the different files and their content.


Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung

Max Planck Society

Richard A Pimentel Fund