Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cuckoo chicks in Zebra finches: Eggs from other females can be found in every fifth nest

Date:
September 3, 2010
Source:
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Summary:
Some female zebra finches foist a part of their eggs on their neighbors. Scientists in Germany have discovered that in every fifth nest there is one egg that is not produced by its social parents. The female birds act in a very well-targeted way: eggs are being placed in “foster-care” shortly before the hosts commence their own egg laying.

Pair of zebra finches.
Credit: Wolfgang Forstmeier

Some female zebra finches foist a part of their eggs on their neighbours. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen discovered that in every fifth nest there is one egg that is not produced by its social parents. The female birds act in a very well-targeted way: eggs are being placed in "foster-care" shortly before the hosts commence their own egg laying.

Related Articles


The research is published online in the journal Animal Behaviour (April 2010).

Zebra finches breed in colonies and each pair cares for their own offspring. However, brood parasitism within the same species is relatively common, in captive populations as well as in the wild in Australia. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute in Seewiesen studied the parentage of all eggs in a captive population with genetic methods and found out that in every 20 eggs there was one "cuckoo egg." Mostly the same females specialize in outsourcing parental work of some of their eggs. It is interesting that they combine brood parasitism with laying and raising their own clutches -- a purely parasitic strategy was not found.

The female cuckoo-zebra finches have to time the egg-laying to a host nest very precisely: the incubation starts usually shortly after laying the first or second egg. When the parents are already sitting on their nest, it is hardly possible to foist a cuckoo egg on them. But if the female drops the egg too early to a host's nest, the latter might abandon the nest.

Captive conditions in the aviaries made thorough studies of the chronology of egg laying easier for the scientists: "Most of the cuckoo eggs show up in the host's nest shortly before the host parents start breeding," says Holger Schielzeth, first author of the study. "That shows that the "cuckoo-females" seem to monitor the neighbours' breeding start." The researchers found no cues that the cuckoo females target specific host pairs. More the opposite was the case: a host pair was rarely hit a second time. That is a sign that host parents learn to defend themselves.

Cuckoo females usually lay more than one egg in host nests, but most of the time only one in each nest and shortly before they start laying their own clutches. However the cuckoo strategy is not as successful as it might sound: "Just one third of the eggs are finally being reared by foster parents," says Holger Schielzeth. "Females employing a mixed brood strategy lay more eggs but end up with as many fledglings as females with a pure brood strategy." If the brood parasitism would be a more successful strategy, the development of a pure cuckoo-specialist within the zebra finches would probably have evolved.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Holger Schielzeth, Elisabeth Bolund. Patterns of conspecific brood parasitism in zebra finches. Animal Behaviour, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.03.006

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Cuckoo chicks in Zebra finches: Eggs from other females can be found in every fifth nest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100422155027.htm>.
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. (2010, September 3). Cuckoo chicks in Zebra finches: Eggs from other females can be found in every fifth nest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100422155027.htm
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Cuckoo chicks in Zebra finches: Eggs from other females can be found in every fifth nest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100422155027.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins