|Title||Brown-headed cowbird nestlings influence nestmate begging, but not parental feeding, in hosts of three distinct sizes|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2010|
|Authors||Rivers, JW, Loughin, TM, Rothstein, SI|
|Keywords||begging; brood parasitism, brown-headed cowbird, host–parasite interaction, Molothrus ater, offspring solicitation, parent feeding, provisioning behaviour|
Avian brood parasites typically depress the fitness of their hosts by reducing the number of host offspring produced, yet little is known about how parasitic nestlings influence the behaviour of host parents and host offspring. In this study, we used three hosts of the brown-headed cowbird, Molothrus ater, that varied in size (i.e. smaller, similar to and larger than cowbirds of a given age) to determine whether parasitic nestlings altered patterns of food provisioning by host parents and begging by host young under field conditions. Adult provisioning did not change in the presence of a cowbird but instead was influenced by feeding treatment and host size. In parasitized broods where nestlings differed in size (i.e. the small and large hosts), the larger nestling received the majority of food brought to the nest, regardless of whether it was the cowbird or host nestling. In contrast, similar-sized host nestlings received a similar amount of food in parasitized and unparasitized host broods. Relative to unparasitized broods, the presence of a cowbird led to increased begging intensity by the small host, had no clear effect on begging behaviour of the intermediate-sized host, and reduced begging intensity of the large host. Taken together, these results suggest the presence of a cowbird did not lead to changes in provisioning behaviour in parents, and the extent to which cowbirds influenced host begging behaviour depended on the size of the host.