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A generalist brood parasite modifies use of a host in response to reproductive success [Proceedings of the Royal Society B]

Keywords : brood parasitism, cognition and reproduction, cowbird, host selection, reproductive performance information, statistical decision theory

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

Avian obligate brood parasites, which rely solely on hosts to raise their young, should choose the highest quality hosts to maximize reproductive output. Brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) are extreme host generalists, yet female cowbirds could use information based on past reproductive outcomes to make egg-laying decisions thus minimizing fitness costs associated with parasitizing low-quality hosts. We use a long-term (21 years) nest-box study of a single host, the prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea), to show that local cowbird reproductive success, but not host reproductive success, was positively correlated with the probability of parasitism the following year.(...)

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