We experimentally parasitized nests of the Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus) in Hispaniola using real and artificial eggs made from wood and modeling clay. Artificial eggs were similar in size and shape to real weaver eggs and were coated with acrylic paint and glazed. Real eggs were actual weaver eggs taken from Village Weaver nests. Experimental parasitic eggs (1) mimicked natural weaver eggs, (2) differed in color only, (3) differed in spotting only, or (4) mimicked Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) egg color and spotting pattern. Parasitized nests were checked after 2-6 days. Real eggs were ejected from weaver nests with increasing frequency as they became less similar to the eggs in the nest with cowbirds eggs having the highest rejection (81%). However, for artificial egg types there were no significant within-composition differences in patterns of rejection. Clay eggs were usually ejected from the nests, whereas nests containing wood eggs often ended empty, or with only the artificial egg remaining in the nest. These patterns may reflect the differential ability of weavers to recognize and remove foreign eggs of different compositions from their nests. Researchers undertaking egg-rejection experiments should use real eggs either in addition or in place of artificial eggs to assess the cost of rejection and the coevolutionary relationships between parasite and host.
Additional publication details
Effects of experimental egg composition on rejection by Village Weavers (Ploceus cucullatus)