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Host selection by the shiny cowbird

Condor

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Abstract

Factors important in Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) host selection were examined within the mangrove community in Puerto Rico. Cowbirds did not parasitize birds in proportion to their abundance. The cowbird breeding season coincided with those of its major hosts, which were 'high-quality' foster species (i.e., species that fledge .gtoreq. 55% of cowbirds hatched: Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petechia; Yellow-shouldered Blackbird, Agelaius xanthomus; Black-whiskered Vireo, Vireo altiloquus; Black-cowled Oriole, Icterus dominicensis; Peurto Rican Flycatcher, Myiarchus antillarum; Troupial, Icterus icterus), and did not extend into other periods even though nests of 'low-quality: species (i.e., species that fledge < 55% of cowbird chicks that hatched: Bronze Mannikin, Lonchura cucullata; Greater Antillean Grackle, Quiscalus niger; Gray Kingbird, Tyrannus dominicensis; Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos; Red-legged Thrush, Turdus plumbeus) were available. Shiny Cowbird food habits and egg size were similar to those of their hosts, suggesting that cowbirds choose hosts partly on the basis of this combination. Cowbirds located host nests primarily by cryptically watching activities of birds in likely habitats. Other nest locating strategies were active searching of suitable habitat and 'flushing' of hosts by the cowbird's noisy approach. Cowbirds closely monitored nest status with frequent visits that peaked on the host's first day of egg laying. Hosts using covered nests (e.g., cavities, domed nests) were as vulnerable to cowbird parasitism as those building open nests.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Host selection by the shiny cowbird
Series title:
Condor
Volume
90
Issue:
2
Year Published:
1988
Language:
English
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description:
289-303
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
289
Last page:
303
Number of Pages:
15