As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Neighborhood watch and more: How reed warblers watch out when there's a cuckoo about


Date:January 22, 2016
Source:University of Cambridge

It's a risky business being a reed warbler. Not only do these tiny birds embark on an annual migration of some 5,000 km from their West African winter quarters to breeding grounds in the north, but they are also 'hosts' to the cuckoo, a species that lays its eggs in other birds' nests and takes no further part in raising its offspring. When the cuckoo chick hatches, it pushes the reed warbler eggs and young out of the nest. As sole occupant, it tricks its warbler 'parents' into supplying its voracious appetite until it fledges.

Cuckoos are expert tricksters: their eggs mimic those of their hosts in pattern though they are a little bigger. If the reed warbler detects an alien egg in its nest, or spots a cuckoo nearby, it may eject the odd-looking egg. But cuckoos are so swift in laying their eggs (only one is laid per nest and the process is over in as little as 10 seconds), and so clever at disguising their eggs, that warblers are often uncertain whether an odd egg in the clutch is a cuckoo egg or one of their own.

Research into the relationship between cuckoos and reed warblers has to date concentrated on the behaviour of individual birds and their interactions with cuckoos, described as parasites. A new study published January 22, 2016) in Scientific Reports looks at wider interactions between neighbouring communities of reed warblers, their strategies for coping with cuckoos, and, in particular, how warblers assess levels of risk by gathering information from a variety of sources.

Continued ...

No comments:

Post a comment