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Data from: Cuckoo parasitism in a cavity nesting host: near absent egg-rejection in a northern redstart population under heavy apparent (but low effective) brood parasitism

Citation

Thomson, Robert L.; Tolvanen, Jere; Forsman, Jukka T. (2015), Data from: Cuckoo parasitism in a cavity nesting host: near absent egg-rejection in a northern redstart population under heavy apparent (but low effective) brood parasitism, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.48012

Abstract

Brood parasite - host systems continue to offer insights into species coevolution. A notable system is the redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus parasitized by the “redstart-cuckoo” Cuculus canorus gens. Redstarts are the only regular cuckoo hosts that breed in cavities, which challenges adult cuckoos in egg laying and cuckoo chicks in host eviction. We investigated parasitism in this system and found high overall parasitism rates (31.1% of 360 redstart nests), but also that only 33.1% of parasitism events (49 of 148 eggs) were successful in laying eggs into redstart nest cups. The majority of cuckoo eggs were mislaid and found on the rim of the nest; outside the nest cup. All available evidence suggests these eggs were not ejected by hosts. The effective parasitism rate was therefore only 12.8% of redstart nests. Redstarts responded to natural parasitism by deserting their nests in 13.0% of cases, compared to desertion rates of 2.8% for non-parasitized nests. Our egg parasitism experiments found low rates (12.2%) of rejection of artificial non-mimetic cuckoo eggs. Artificial mimetic and real cuckoo eggs added to nests were rejected at even lower rates, and were always rejected via desertion. Under natural conditions, only 21 cuckoo chicks fledged of 150 cuckoo eggs laid. Adding to this low success, is that cuckoo chicks are sometimes unable to evict all host young, and were more likely to die as a result compared to cuckoo chicks reared alone. This low success seems to be mainly due to the cavity nesting strategy of the redstart which is a challenging obstacle for the cuckoo. The redstart-cuckoo system appears to be a fruitful model system and we suggest much more emphasis should be placed on frontline defences such as nest site selection strategies when investigating brood parasite-host coevolution.

Usage Notes

Location

Finland