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Absence of Parent-Young Recognition in Kittiwakes: a Re-Examination

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image of Behaviour

Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) appear to recognize their chicks later in development than do ground-nesting gulls, an observation which has been related to the lower mobility of the chicks in nests on narrow cliff ledges. We tested whether this apparent delayed recognition was due to a failure of chicks to identify themselves (few individual cues in calls), or a failure of either participant to discriminate its relatives (differential response to calls or visual characteristics). It appears that both processes are relevant: (a) the peep calls of kittiwake chicks have fewer identifying cues in them than the peep calls from chicks of the ground-nesting herring gull (Larus argentatus), and (B) both parents and chicks show low levels of responsiveness to kittiwake calls from their own or from other nests. These results are discussed in terms of the appropriate level of responsiveness in the cliff environment, and the adaptive significance of the presence or absence of strong positive responses to one's own family members.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's Newfound-land A1B 3X9, Canada; 2: Fisheries and Oceans, Biological Station, St. Andrews, New Brunswick, EOG 2X0, Canada


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