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Video Evidence of Siblicide and Cannibalism, Movement of Nestlings by Adults, and Interactions with Predators in Nesting Hen Harriers
- Fernández-Bellon, Darío, Wilson, Mark W., Irwin, Sandra, Kelly, Thomas C., O'Mahony, Barry, O'Halloran, John
- TheJournal of raptor research 2018 v.52 no.3 pp. 393-399
- Circus cyaneus, Falco tinnunculus, Vulpes vulpes, adults, birds, cameras, cannibalism, females, males, nesting, nestlings, population dynamics, predation, predators, siblicide, siblings, Ireland
- During a nest-camera study of Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus), we recorded siblicide, cannibalism, movement of nestlings by adult birds, and interactions with predators. We deployed cameras at 13 nests across three study areas in Ireland between 2008 and 2010. At a nest with two well-developed nestlings (approximately 25–30 d old), the older nestling killed its sibling and fed on it. This was the first documented case of siblicide in this species, to our knowledge. Recordings also revealed three other events of cannibalism in which one of the nestlings in a brood died from unknown causes and was then eaten by its siblings (n = 1), by the adult male (n = 1), or was used by the adult female to feed the remaining nestlings (n = 1). At two nests, recordings showed the adult female picking up and moving nestlings that were outside the nest cup. In addition, cameras recorded two instances of full brood predation by red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and an attack on a nest by a female Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) that had no apparent consequences for the nestlings or the female Hen Harrier. The behaviors reported here, which are difficult to observe directly, may have important consequences for our understanding of productivity and population dynamics of Hen Harriers.