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Killing behaviour of adult brood parasites

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Institute of Vertebrate Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno, Czech Republic
  • | 2 Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
  • | 3 Department of Behavioural Ecology, University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland
  • | 4 Department of Forest Zoology and Wildlife Management, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW), Warsaw, Poland
  • | 5 Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
  • | 6 Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Colchester, UK
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Abstract

Decades of studies have revealed the striking adaptations of avian brood parasites for their unique reproductive lifestyle. Several have reported that adult brood parasites sometimes kill host nestlings, although the reasons for this behaviour remain unclear. Using continuous video-recording and camera traps, we observed the same behaviour in the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus, showing that both host and parasite nestlings can be killed. The latter has never previously been observed in cuckoos. Here, we review this phenomenon and discuss possible explanations.

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