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Host density predicts presence of cuckoo parasitism in reed warblers

Stokke, Bård G., Hafstad, Inge, Rudolfsen, Geir, Bargain, Bruno, Beier, Josef, Bigas Campàs, David, Dyrcz, Andrzej, Honza, Marcel, Leisler, Bernd, Pap, Péter L., PatapaviČius, RiČardas, Procházka, Petr, Schulze-Hagen, Karl, Thomas, Robert J. ORCID:, Moksnes, Arne, Pape Møller, Anders, Røskaft, Eivin and Soler, Manuel 2007. Host density predicts presence of cuckoo parasitism in reed warblers. Oikos 116 (6) , pp. 913-922. 10.1111/j.2007.0030-1299.15832.x

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In some hosts of avian brood parasites, several populations apparently escape parasitism, while others are parasitized. Many migratory specialist brood parasites like common cuckoos, Cuculus canorus, experience a short breeding season, and in order to maintain local parasite populations host densities should be sufficiently high to allow efficient nest search. However, no studies have investigated the possible effect of host density on presence of cuckoo parasitism among populations of a single host species. Here, we investigated possible predictors of common cuckoo parasitism in 16 populations of reed warblers, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, across Europe. In more detail, we quantified the effect of host density, number of host breeding pairs, habitat type, mean distance to nearest cuckoo vantage point, predation rate and latitude on the presence of cuckoo parasitism while controlling for geographical distance among study populations. Host density was a powerful predictor of parasitism. We also found a less pronounced effect of habitat type on occurrence of parasitism, while the other variables did not explain why cuckoos utilize some reed warbler populations and not others. This is the first study focusing on patterns of common cuckoo-host interactions within a specific host species on a large geographic scale. The results indicate that if host density is below a specific threshold, cuckoo parasitism is absent regardless of the state of other potentially confounding variables.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0030-1299
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2022 08:38

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