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Brood parasitism by the enigmatic and rare Pavonine Cuckoo in Amazonian Peru
- Sánchez-Martínez, Manuel A., David, Santiago, Londoño, Gustavo A., Robinson, Scott K.
- The Auk 2017 v.134 no.2 pp. 330-339
- Cuculidae, birds, brood parasitism, color, eggs, hosts, nestlings, nests, parasites, plumage, reproductive success, Amazonia, Peru
- Brood parasitism is an uncommon and understudied strategy in Amazonian bird communities, within which only 5 species are known to be brood parasites. We present data on the brood-parasitic behavior of the Pavonine Cuckoo (Dromococcyx pavoninus) in 3 host species of small-bodied flycatchers in the Peruvian Amazon that construct hanging globular nests with side entrances. During the 7 yr of the study, we encountered 74 nests of these 3 hosts, but parasitism occurred only in 9 nests (12.2%) in 2 yr. Only 1 Pavonine Cuckoo egg was deposited in each host nest (n = 7), and eggs were markedly dissimilar in size and coloration between hosts and parasite. Incubation investment per day was slightly higher (4%) for 1 parasitized nest than for nonparasitized nests. Overall, 33% of parasitic eggs (n = 6) hatched; cuckoo nestlings apparently removed host eggs and killed host nestlings. The nestling period lasted 24 days, and the growth-rate constant based on nestling mass (k = 0.23) was slower for parasite nestlings than for their hosts (k = 0.27 and 0.31). Food provisioning rates were greater in 1 parasitized nest (2.1 ± 0.7 feedings hr⁻¹ nestling⁻¹) than in nonparasitized nests (1.1 ± 0.4). Nestling cuckoos may further mimic the plumage of their host nestlings. Our results suggest that Pavonine Cuckoos negatively affect their hosts' breeding success and are engaged in a coevolutionary arms race with hosts that have defenses against parasitism.