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Open Access Nestling begging calls increase predation risk by corvids

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Nestling begging calls increase predation risk by corvids

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Affiliations: 1: Section of Science, Nord University, N-7600 Levanger, Norway


Despite nest predation being the most common cause of breeding failure in open-nesting birds, we have little insight into the cues used by nest predators when they search for nests. So far we have assumed that nest-predating birds are visually oriented while mammal predators to a large extent use scent and auditory cues like nestling begging calls. To evaluate how important nestling begging calls are for corvid nest predators searching for nests, I used artificial nests, which made it possible to find the real costs of the begging without mitigation by parental and nestling behavior. I used paired artificial nests, one with and one without nestling begging call playback. Within 10 days, 62.9% of the nests were predated. The analyses showed that nests with begging calls suffered a significantly higher predation rate than nests without begging calls, especially when the nests were placed close to corvid nests. Moreover, nests with begging calls were predated significantly earlier than nests without begging calls. In artificial nest pairs with both nests predated but on different days, nests with begging calls were predated first. In nest pairs with only one predated nest, nests with begging calls were predated most often. This experiment shows that nestling begging calls imply a cost in terms of increased and earlier nest predation, and that corvids use nestling begging calls as a cue to find and depredate bird nests, challenging earlier expectations.


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