Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

High frequency but low impact of brood parasitism by the specialist Screaming Cowbird on its primary host, the Baywing

María C. De Mársico A B and Juan C. Reboreda A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, and IEGEBA-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II Ciudad Universitaria, C1428EGA Buenos Aires, Argentina.

B Corresponding author. Email: de_marsico@ege.fcen.uba.ar

Emu 114(4) 309-316 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU14008
Submitted: 20 January 2014  Accepted: 26 May 2014   Published: 19 August 2014

Abstract

Brood-parasitic cowbirds (Molothrus spp.) exploit the parental care of other species (hosts) that raise their offspring. Parasitism by cowbirds reduces host reproductive success in several ways and quantifying such costs is an important step to better understand evolutionary interactions in host–parasite associations. We estimated the costs of parasitism by the host-specialist Screaming Cowbird (M. rufoaxillaris) to the reproductive success of its primary host, the Baywing (Agelaioides badius). We tested the effect of Cowbird parasitism on egg survival, hatching success, nestling survival and body mass at fledging of Baywings in a population of eastern Argentina where the frequency of parasitism by Screaming Cowbirds exceeds 90% of Baywing nests. Egg survival decreased with the number of Screaming Cowbird eggs laid during the egg-stage and, on average, host clutch-size was reduced by 10% per parasitic event. However, contrary to our expectations, we did not find any clear effect of parasitism on hatching success, nestling survival and body mass at fledging of Baywings. Our results suggest that, despite its high frequency, parasitism by Screaming Cowbirds has a rather little effect on the viability of Baywing offspring. We discuss how clutch rejection behaviour and flexible nest-provisioning rules of the hosts might help to explain this paradoxical result.

Additional keywords: Baywing, brood parasitism, host use, Molothrus, reproductive success.


References

Astié, A. A., and Reboreda, J. C. (2006). Costs of egg punctures and parasitism by Shiny Cowbirds (Molothrus bonariensis) at Creamy-bellied Thrush (Turdus amaurochalinus) nests. Auk 123, 23–32.
Costs of egg punctures and parasitism by Shiny Cowbirds (Molothrus bonariensis) at Creamy-bellied Thrush (Turdus amaurochalinus) nests.CrossRef |

Burhans, D. E., Thompson, F. R., and Faaborg, J. (2000). Costs of parasitism incurred by two songbird species and their quality as cowbird hosts. Condor 102, 364–373.
Costs of parasitism incurred by two songbird species and their quality as cowbird hosts.CrossRef |

Canestrari, D., Marcos, J. M., and Baglione, V. (2009). Cooperative breeding in Carrion Crows reduces the rate of brood parasitism by Great Spotted Cuckoos. Animal Behaviour 77, 1337–1344.
Cooperative breeding in Carrion Crows reduces the rate of brood parasitism by Great Spotted Cuckoos.CrossRef |

Carter, M. D. (1986). The parasitic behaviour of the Bronzed Cowbird in South Texas. Condor 88, 11–25.
The parasitic behaviour of the Bronzed Cowbird in South Texas.CrossRef |

Clotfelter, E. D., and Yasukawa, K. (1999). Impact of brood parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds on Red-winged Blackbird reproductive success. Condor 101, 105–114.
Impact of brood parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds on Red-winged Blackbird reproductive success.CrossRef |

Crawley, M. J. (2007). ‘The R Book.’ (Wiley: Chichester, UK.)

Davies, N. B. (2000). ‘Cuckoos, Cowbirds and Other Cheats.’ (A. & T. Poyser: London.)

De Mársico, M. C., and Reboreda, J. C. (2010). Brood parasitism increases mortality of Bay-winged Cowbird nests. Condor 112, 407–417.
Brood parasitism increases mortality of Bay-winged Cowbird nests.CrossRef |

De Mársico, M. C., Mahler, B., and Reboreda, J. C. (2010). Reproductive success and nestling growth of the Baywing parasitized by Screaming and Shiny Cowbirds. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 122, 417–431.
Reproductive success and nestling growth of the Baywing parasitized by Screaming and Shiny Cowbirds.CrossRef |

De Mársico, M. C., Gantchoff, M. G., and Reboreda, J. C. (2012). Host–parasite coevolution beyond the nestling stage? Mimicry of host fledglings by the specialist screaming cowbird. Proceedings. Biological Sciences 279, 3401–3408.
Host–parasite coevolution beyond the nestling stage? Mimicry of host fledglings by the specialist screaming cowbird.CrossRef |

De Mársico, M. C., Gloag, R., Ursino, C. A., and Reboreda, J. C. (2013). A novel method of rejection of brood parasitic eggs reduces parasitism intensity in a cowbird host. Biology Letters 9, 20130076.
A novel method of rejection of brood parasitic eggs reduces parasitism intensity in a cowbird host.CrossRef | 23485877PubMed |

Dearborn, D. C. (1999). Brown-headed Cowbird nestling vocalizations and risk of nest predation. Auk 116, 448–457.
Brown-headed Cowbird nestling vocalizations and risk of nest predation.CrossRef |

Dearborn, D. C., Anders, A., Thompson, F. R., and Faaborg, J. (1998). Effects of cowbird parasitism on parental provisioning and nestling food acquisition and growth. Condor 100, 326–334.
Effects of cowbird parasitism on parental provisioning and nestling food acquisition and growth.CrossRef |

Duré Ruiz, N. M., Mermoz, M. E., and Fernández, G. J. (2008). Effect of cowbird parasitism on brood reduction in the Brown-and-yellow Marshbird. Condor 110, 507–513.
Effect of cowbird parasitism on brood reduction in the Brown-and-yellow Marshbird.CrossRef |

Eckerle, K. P., and Breitwisch, R. (1997). Reproductive success of the Northern Cardinal, a large host of Brown-headed Cowbirds. Condor 99, 169–178.
Reproductive success of the Northern Cardinal, a large host of Brown-headed Cowbirds.CrossRef |

Feeney, W. E., Medina, I., Somveille, M., Heinsohn, R., Hall, M. L., Mulder, R. A., Stein, J. A., Kilner, R. M., and Langmore, N. E. (2013). Brood parasitism and the evolution of cooperative breeding in birds. Science 342, 1506–1508.
Brood parasitism and the evolution of cooperative breeding in birds.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC3sXhvFemu77I&md5=4363b3979ed1caa97765223ddbb56393CAS | 24357317PubMed |

Fiorini, V. D., Tuero, D. T., and Reboreda, J. C. (2009). Shiny Cowbirds synchronize parasitism with host laying and puncture host eggs according to host characteristics. Animal Behaviour 77, 561–568.
Shiny Cowbirds synchronize parasitism with host laying and puncture host eggs according to host characteristics.CrossRef |

Fraga, R. M. (1979). Differences between nestlings and fledglings of Screaming and Bay-winged Cowbirds. Wilson Bulletin 91, 151–154.

Fraga, R. M. (1983). The eggs of the parasitic Screaming Cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris) and its host, the Baywinged Cowbird (M. badius): is there evidence for mimicry? Journal of Ornithology 124, 187–193.
The eggs of the parasitic Screaming Cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris) and its host, the Baywinged Cowbird (M. badius): is there evidence for mimicry?CrossRef |

Fraga, R. M. (1991). The social system of a communal breeder, the Bay-winged Cowbird Molothrus badius. Ethology 89, 195–210.
The social system of a communal breeder, the Bay-winged Cowbird Molothrus badius.CrossRef |

Fraga, R. M. (1996). Further evidence of parasitism of Chopi Blackbirds (Gnorimopsar chopi) by the specialized Screaming Cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris). Condor 98, 866–867.
Further evidence of parasitism of Chopi Blackbirds (Gnorimopsar chopi) by the specialized Screaming Cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris).CrossRef |

Fraga, R. M. (1998). Interactions of the parasitic Screaming and Shiny Cowbirds (Molothrus rufoaxillaris and M. bonariensis) with a shared host, the Bay-winged Cowbird (M. badius). In ‘Brood Parasites and Their Hosts: Studies in Coevolution’. (Eds S. K. Robinson and S. I. Rothstein.) pp. 173–193. (Oxford University Press: New York.)

Fraga, R. M. (2008). Notes on the nesting of Chopi Blackbirds (Gnorimopsar chopi) in Argentina and Paraguay, with data on cooperative breeding and brood parasitism by Screaming Cowbirds (Molothrus rufoaxillaris). Ornitologia Neotropical 19, 299–303.

Gloag, R., and Kacelnik, A. (2013). Host manipulation via begging call structure in the brood-parasitic Shiny Cowbird. Animal Behaviour 86, 101–109.
Host manipulation via begging call structure in the brood-parasitic Shiny Cowbird.CrossRef |

Gloag, R., Fiorini, V., Reboreda, J. C., and Kacelnik, A. (2012). Brood parasite eggs enhance egg survivorship in a multiply parasitized host. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London – B. Biological Sciences 279, 1831–1839.
Brood parasite eggs enhance egg survivorship in a multiply parasitized host.CrossRef |

Grayson, P., Glassey, B., and Forbes, S. (2013). Does brood parasitism induce paternal care in a polyginous host? Ethology 119, 489–495.
Does brood parasitism induce paternal care in a polyginous host?CrossRef |

Hauber, M. E. (2003). Hatching asynchrony, nestling competition, and the cost of interspecific brood parasitism. Behavioral Ecology 14, 227–235.
Hatching asynchrony, nestling competition, and the cost of interspecific brood parasitism.CrossRef |

Hoover, J. P. (2003). Multiple effects of brood parasitism reduce the reproductive success of Prothonotary Warblers, Protonotaria citrea. Animal Behaviour 65, 923–934.
Multiple effects of brood parasitism reduce the reproductive success of Prothonotary Warblers, Protonotaria citrea.CrossRef |

Hoover, J. P., and Reetz, M. J. (2006). Brood parasitism increases provisioning rate, and reduces offspring recruitment and adult return rates, in a cowbird host. Oecologia 149, 165–173.
Brood parasitism increases provisioning rate, and reduces offspring recruitment and adult return rates, in a cowbird host.CrossRef | 16639566PubMed |

Hosoi, S. A., and Rothstein, S. I. (2000). Nest desertion and cowbird parasitism: evidence for evolved responses and evolutionary lag. Animal Behaviour 59, 823–840.
Nest desertion and cowbird parasitism: evidence for evolved responses and evolutionary lag.CrossRef | 10792938PubMed |

Hoy, G., and Ottow, J. (1964). Biological and oological studies of the Molothrine cowbirds (Icteridae) of Argentina. Auk 81, 186–203.
Biological and oological studies of the Molothrine cowbirds (Icteridae) of Argentina.CrossRef |

Kilner, R. M., Madden, J. R., and Hauber, M. E. (2004). Brood parasitic cowbird nestlings use host young to procure resources. Science 305, 877–879.
Brood parasitic cowbird nestlings use host young to procure resources.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD2cXmt1Krtr4%3D&md5=757f7d23df82da5ea4af13672792eb7bCAS | 15297677PubMed |

Lichtenstein, G. (2001). Selfish begging by Screaming Cowbirds, a mimetic brood parasite of the Bay-winged Cowbird. Animal Behaviour 61, 1151–1158.
Selfish begging by Screaming Cowbirds, a mimetic brood parasite of the Bay-winged Cowbird.CrossRef |

Lorenzana, J. C., and Sealy, S. G. (1999). A meta-analysis of the impact of parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird on its hosts. Studies in Avian Biology 18, 241–253.

Lotem, A., and Nakamura, H. (1998). Evolutionary equilibria in avian brood parasitism: an alternative to the ‘arms race-evolutionary lag’ concept. In ‘Brood Parasites and Their Hosts: Studies in Coevolution’. (Eds S. K. Robinson and S. I. Rothstein.) pp. 223–235. (Oxford University Press: New York.)

Mahler, B., Confalonieri, V. A., Lovette, I. J., and Reboreda, J. C. (2007). Partial host fidelity in nest selection by the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), a highly generalist avian brood parasite. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20, 1918–1923.
Partial host fidelity in nest selection by the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), a highly generalist avian brood parasite.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD2sXhtFaht77N&md5=8f6f6706462801ff6bd3e6a8e4d02529CAS | 17714308PubMed |

Massoni, V., and Reboreda, J. C. (1998). Costs of brood parasitism and the lack of defenses on the Yellow-winged Blackbird–Shiny Cowbird system. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 42, 273–280.
Costs of brood parasitism and the lack of defenses on the Yellow-winged Blackbird–Shiny Cowbird system.CrossRef |

May, R. M., and Robinson, S. K. (1985). Population dynamics of avian brood parasitism. American Naturalist 126, 475–494.
Population dynamics of avian brood parasitism.CrossRef |

Mermoz, M. E., and Reboreda, J. C. (1996). New host for a specialized brood parasite, the Screaming Cowbird. Condor 98, 630–632.
New host for a specialized brood parasite, the Screaming Cowbird.CrossRef |

Muldal, A. M., Moffatt, J. D., and Robertson, R. J. (1986). Parental care of nestlings by male Red-winged Blackbirds. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 19, 105–114.
Parental care of nestlings by male Red-winged Blackbirds.CrossRef |

Orians, G. H., Orians, C. E., and Orians, K. J. (1977). Helpers at the nest in some Argentine blackbirds. In ‘Evolutionary Ecology’. (Eds B. Stonehouse and C. Perrins.) pp. 137–151. (Macmillan Press: London.)

Ortega, C. P. (1998). ‘Cowbirds and Other Brood Parasites.’ (University of Arizona Press: Tucson, AZ.)

Payne, R. B., and Payne, L. L. (1998). Brood parasitism by cowbirds: risk and effects on reproductive success and survival in Indigo Buntings. Behavioral Ecology 9, 64–73.
Brood parasitism by cowbirds: risk and effects on reproductive success and survival in Indigo Buntings.CrossRef |

Peer, B. D. (2006). Egg destruction and egg removal by avian brood parasites: adaptiveness and consequences. Auk 123, 16–22.
Egg destruction and egg removal by avian brood parasites: adaptiveness and consequences.CrossRef |

Peer, B. D., Rivers, J. W., and Rothstein, S. I. (2013). Cowbirds, conservation, and coevolution: potential misconceptions and directions for future research. Chinese Birds 4, 15–30.
Cowbirds, conservation, and coevolution: potential misconceptions and directions for future research.CrossRef |

R Development Core Team (2013). ‘R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing.’ (R Foundation for Statistical Computing: Vienna, Austria.) Available at http://www.R-project.org [Verified 23 June 2014].

Rasmussen, J. L., and Sealy, S. G. (2006). Hosts feeding only Brown-headed Cowbird fledglings: where are the host fledglings? Journal of Field Ornithology 77, 269–279.
Hosts feeding only Brown-headed Cowbird fledglings: where are the host fledglings?CrossRef |

Ricklefs, R. E. (1967). A graphical method of fitting equations to growth curves. Ecology 48, 978–983.
A graphical method of fitting equations to growth curves.CrossRef |

Rivers, J. W., Loughin, T. M., and Rothstein, S. I. (2010). Brown-headed Cowbird nestlings influence nestmate begging, but not parental feeding, in hosts of three distinct sizes. Animal Behaviour 79, 107–116.
Brown-headed Cowbird nestlings influence nestmate begging, but not parental feeding, in hosts of three distinct sizes.CrossRef |

Robinson, S. K., and Rothstein, S. I. (Eds) (1998). ‘Parasitic Birds and Their Hosts: Studies in Coevolution.’ (Oxford University Press: New York.)

Sackmann, P., and Reboreda, J. C. (2003). A comparative study of Shiny Cowbird parasitism of two large hosts, the Chalk-browed Mockingbird and the Rufous-bellied Thrush. Condor 105, 728–736.
A comparative study of Shiny Cowbird parasitism of two large hosts, the Chalk-browed Mockingbird and the Rufous-bellied Thrush.CrossRef |

Sealy, S. G. (1992). Removal of Yellow Warbler eggs in association with cowbird parasitism. Condor 94, 40–54.
Removal of Yellow Warbler eggs in association with cowbird parasitism.CrossRef |

Sick, H. (1985). ‘Ornitologia Brasileira, Uma Introdução.’ (Universidade de Brasília: Brasília.)

Smith, J. N. M. (1981). Cowbird parasitism, host fitness, and age of the host female in an island Song Sparrow population. Condor 83, 152–161.
Cowbird parasitism, host fitness, and age of the host female in an island Song Sparrow population.CrossRef |

Smith, J. N. M., Taitt, M. J., Zanette, L., and Myers-Smith, I. H. (2003). How do Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) cause nest failures in Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia)? A removal experiment. Auk 120, 772–783.
How do Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) cause nest failures in Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia)? A removal experiment.CrossRef |

Spottiswoode, C. N., Kilner, R. M., and Davies, N. B. (2012) Brood parasitism. In ‘The Evolution of Parental Care’. (Eds N. J. Royle, P. T. Smiseth and M. Kölliker.) pp. 226–243. (Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.)

Tewksbury, J. J., Martin, T. E., Hejl, S. J., Kuehn, M. J., and Wajid Jenkins, J. (2002). Parental care of a cowbird host: caught between the costs of egg-removal and nest predation. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London – B. Biological Sciences 269, 423–429.
Parental care of a cowbird host: caught between the costs of egg-removal and nest predation.CrossRef |

Trine, C. L. (2000). Effects of multiple parasitism on cowbird and Wood Thrush reproductive success. In ‘Ecology and Management of Cowbirds and Their Hosts’. (Eds J. N. M. Smith, T. L. Cook, S. I. Rothstein, S. K. Robinson and S. G. Sealy.) pp. 135–144. (University of Texas Press: Austin, TX.)

Tuero, D. T., Fiorini, V., and Reboreda, J. C. (2007). Effects of Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis parasitism on different components of House Wren Troglodytes aedon reproductive success. Ibis 149, 521–529.
Effects of Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis parasitism on different components of House Wren Troglodytes aedon reproductive success.CrossRef |

Tuero, D. T., Fiorini, V. D., and Reboreda, J. C. (2012). Do Shiny Cowbird females adjust egg pecking behavior according to the competition their chicks face in host nests? Behavioural Processes 89, 137–142.
Do Shiny Cowbird females adjust egg pecking behavior according to the competition their chicks face in host nests?CrossRef | 22119844PubMed |

Ursino, C. A., De Mársico, M. C., Sued, M., Farall, A., and Reboreda, J. C. (2011). Brood parasitism disproportionately increases nest provisioning and helper recruitment in a cooperatively breeding bird. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65, 2279–2286.
Brood parasitism disproportionately increases nest provisioning and helper recruitment in a cooperatively breeding bird.CrossRef |

Yasukawa, K., McClure, J. L., Boley, R. A., and Zanocco, J. (1990). Provisioning of nestlings by male and female Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoenicius. Animal Behaviour 40, 153–166.
Provisioning of nestlings by male and female Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoenicius.CrossRef |

Zanette, L., MacDougall-Shackleton, E., Clinchy, M., and Smith, J. N. M. (2005). Brown-headed Cowbirds skew host offspring sex-ratios. Ecology 86, 815–820.
Brown-headed Cowbirds skew host offspring sex-ratios.CrossRef |


Export Citation

View Altmetrics