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Egg mimicry and host selection by common cuckoos among four sympatric host species breeding within a reed habitat

Citation

Ma, Laikun; Liu, Jianping; Yang, Canchao; Liang, Wei (2021), Egg mimicry and host selection by common cuckoos among four sympatric host species breeding within a reed habitat, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.15dv41nzh

Abstract

In the case of cuckoo parasitism, the maintenance of host specificity may be closely related to active host selection. In the reed wetlands of the Yongnian National Wetland Park, China, four host species of common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) with similar nest structures breed sympatrically, namely, the oriental reed warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) (ORW), vinous-throated parrotbill (Sinosuthora webbiana) (VP), reed parrotbill (Paradoxornis heudei) (RP) and blunt-winged warbler (Acrocephalus concinens) (BW). Cuckoo parasitism rates on ORW (14.5%) and BW (18.2%) were found to be significantly higher than those on two species of parrotbills (RP 1.4% and VP 0), and cuckoo eggs mimicked the size and coloration of ORW eggs significantly more closely than those of the eggs of the other three hosts. Egg recognition experiments revealed that the ability of ORW and VP to recognize nonmimetic eggs was significantly greater than that of BW and RP. Different life history strategies of the four hosts, including antiparasitic strategy, breeding time period, and population density may partly explain the difference of parasitism in this multiple cuckoo-host system. Our study suggests that determining host life history traits and antiparasitic strategies are important for a better understanding of the specificity of host selection in common cuckoos.

Methods

Field observation and experiments.