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Brood parasitic birds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, leaving hosts to raise their offspring. To understand parasite-host coevolutionary arms races, many studies have examined host responses to experimentally introduced eggs. However, attending parents often need to be flushed from their nests to add experimental eggs. If these birds witness parasitism events, they may recognize and reject foreign eggs more readily than parents who did not. We found that, after being flushed, female blackbirds, Turdus merula, remained close to their nests. Flushed females were more likely to eject foreign eggs and did so more quickly than females that were not flushed during experimentation. In contrast, flushing did not predict responses and latency to responses to parasitism by song thrush, Turdus philomelos, which flew farther from their nests and likely did not witness experimental parasitism. When statistically considering flushing, previously published conclusions regarding both species’ response to experimental parasitism did not change. Nevertheless, we recommend that researchers record and statistically control for whether hosts were flushed prior to experimental parasitism. Our results have broad implications because more vigilant and/or bolder parents can gain more information about parasitism events and therefore have better chances of successfully defending against brood parasitism.


This article originally appeared in Scientific Reports, available at DOI: 10.1038/srep09060

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