Parent-absent calls are related to nestling reaction time and parental food allocation in the spotless starling

in Behaviour
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Absent repeat calls (ARC) are produced by nestlings of some bird species when parents are not at the nest, and play a role in sibling interactions and parental investment. We explored if individual traits influencing begging also determine ARC in the spotless starling (Sturnus unicolor), and whether this behaviour explains nestling feeding success. We video-taped natural broods and examined the effects of experimental feeding in this behaviour. Experimentally fed chicks stopped calling and received fewer feedings. Among un-fed chicks, absence calls were more frequent in smaller nestlings. We found a positive relationship between nestling reaction time to parental arrival and food acquisition: chicks that reacted first received more feedings that slower chicks. ARC performance was also positively related to reaction time: chicks that produced more calls also reacted first to parents. These results suggest that ARC may have important effects on resource allocation and family interaction networks.

Parent-absent calls are related to nestling reaction time and parental food allocation in the spotless starling

in Behaviour



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    Sound spectrograms of typical examples of spotless starling ARC calls (top) and begging calls (bottom), recorded at 10 days of age. Note the difference in duration and spectral composition. In addition, although intensity readings cannot be taken from spectrograms, begging calls are much louder and conspicuous.

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    ARC rates of nestlings as a function of treatment (fed vs. not fed) and day (before or after experimental feeding). Bars represent means per chick plus one standard error. White bars: control (not fed chicks, N=28); black bars: fed chicks (N=29). Refer to Results for statistics.

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    Relative percentage of feeds received per chick as a function of treatment (fed vs. not fed) and day (before or after experimental feeding). Bars represent means plus one standard error. White bars: control (not fed chicks, N=28); black bars: fed chicks (N=29). Refer to Results for statistics.

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    Effect of ARC rate on mean reaction rank residuals (third model, see Methods). Nestlings performing more ARC in each nest reacted to parental arrival faster than their brothers or sisters (third model, refer to Results for statistics).

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