Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birds dumping eggs on the neighbors

Date:
June 3, 2011
Source:
Scottish Marine Institute
Summary:
A huge study of over 69,000 nests around the west coast of Scotland has revealed for the first time the full extent of egg dumping by seabirds. The findings show that cuckoos aren't the only birds to lay eggs in other birds' nests, and may give an insight into how so-called brood parasitism evolved.

Three oystercatcher eggs with two common gull eggs in an oystercatcher nest.
Credit: Image courtesy of Scottish Marine Institute

A huge study of over 69,000 nests around the west coast of Scotland has revealed for the first time the full extent of egg dumping by seabirds. The findings show that cuckoos aren't the only birds to lay eggs in other birds' nests, and may give an insight into how so-called brood parasitism evolved.

Related Articles


While the cuckoo is famous for laying its eggs in other birds' nests, this habit is rare and poorly understood among seabirds.

Dr Clive Craik from the Scottish Marine Institute discovered that 13 different seabird species lay their eggs in other birds' nests, which scientists call 'egg dumping'. The birds that dump most frequently are the oystercatcher and the common eider duck.

'Both oystercatchers and eider ducks dump their eggs in gull nests, possibly because gulls are the most common species. But they are unlikely to successfully rear the alien chick. There may be a slim chance that some unusual species combinations might work,' says Craik.

'An eider duckling is more likely to be seen as food than family if it hatches in a herring gull nest, but there is a very small possibility that it could run through the undergrowth undetected and find a nearby crθche of eider ducklings,' he adds.

Over the course of his 14-year study from 1996 to 2009, Craik found 123 nests with more than one species of seabird egg in it, with 13 different species of seabird being parasitized by an alien seabird laying in their nest.

Over half of the cases of egg dumping were between only three pairs of species: common gull and oystercatchers (the victim was the common gull), herring gull and eider duck (victim the herring gull) and common gull and black-headed gull (the victim, once again, the common gull). Though the frequency of egg dumping is low (of the 69,775 clutches examined, only one in 500 nests had an alien egg), the common gull seemed particularly susceptible.

Dr Craik commented: "Some seabird eggs look very similar to the untrained eye, some differing only in size. But it seems unlikely an oystercatcher would mistake a common gull nest for its own. Egg dumping of this sort may be a primitive version of what the cuckoo does -- a crude attempt by one bird to make others raise its young."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Craik, J.C.A. Mixed clutches at seabird colonies in west Scotland 1996-2009. Seabird, 23, 41-52

Cite This Page:

Scottish Marine Institute. "Birds dumping eggs on the neighbors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110524203605.htm>.
Scottish Marine Institute. (2011, June 3). Birds dumping eggs on the neighbors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110524203605.htm
Scottish Marine Institute. "Birds dumping eggs on the neighbors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110524203605.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) — The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) — For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) — An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. 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