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Sex‐specific effects of predation risk on parental care in a sexually dichromatic Neotropical songbird

Cite this dataset

de Moraes, Pedro Z.; Diniz, Pedro; Macedo, Regina H. (2020). Sex‐specific effects of predation risk on parental care in a sexually dichromatic Neotropical songbird [Dataset]. Dryad.


Predation risk affects a broad range of bird behaviours, especially parental care. The adaptive behavioural changes presented by both parents, however, may differ according to different levels of predation risk suffered by each sex. This is especially prominent in sexually dichromatic species, where one of the sexes is more visually conspicuous and hence vulnerable to increased nest predation risk during nest visits. Here, we experimentally investigated how predation risk affects the parental behaviour of a sexually dichromatic Neotropical passerine, the blue-black grassquit (Volatinia jacarina). We used playbacks of known predators and non-predatorial control sympatric species near nesting pairs in the field. Results show that grassquits modify their behaviour according to predation risk and that this behavioural response is sexdependent. Males decrease their nest visit times, become more discreet when moving towards the nest, and stop performing sexual displays after leaving the nest. In contrast, females tend to decrease latency to visit the nest and increase the duration of brooding bouts. These different sex responses reduce nest visual and acoustic detectability, since conspicuous males are readily spotted on nests and cryptic females camouflage nestlings and suppress begging calls. Although these behavioural changes might reduce predation risk, there might be a cost of reduced food load to nestlings and increased brood starvation risk. These changes in nesting activities illustrate the behavioural adaptability of passerines to ensure offspring survival in tropical high predation risk environments.


This dataset was collected through video analysis of blue-black grassquit nest and parental behavior during experimental conditions that simulated high and low predation risk through the broadcast of vocalizations of known predator and control species. The R script used for analysis is also available.

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Metadata is available in a secondary sheet in this file.