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Birds respond similarly to taxidermic models and live cuckoos Cuculus canorus

Tryjanowski, Piotr, Morelli, Federico, Kwieciński, Zbigniew, Indykiewicz, Piotr, Møller, Anders Pape
Journal of ethology 2018 v.36 no.3 pp. 243-249
Cuculus canorus, Hirundo rustica, aggression, antipredatory behavior, birds, breeding season, environmental factors, flight, hosts, models, parasites, predators, vocalization, wild animals, Poland
Stuffed birds are widely used in research for identifying effects of predators and nest parasites on bird behaviour, studying levels of aggression and the size of territories. However, the fact that these models do not move or vocalize may question the results of such studies and open them to criticism. One solution would be to determine how the results of research using stuffed dummies correlate with the response of wild animals to enemies under the same environmental conditions. In a first attempt, we examined the correlation between the intensity of mobbing of a dummy cuckoo Cuculus canorus and interactions with live cuckoos in the field during the breeding season in western Poland. A total of 39 bird species mobbed cuckoo dummies; all 39 were found to attack live cuckoos, while 24 species (61.5%) did so during experiments using a dummy. The number of individual birds involved in mobbing a dummy was positively correlated with the number of individuals attacking real cuckoos in the same areas, even when the most commonly mobbing species, the barn swallow Hirundo rustica, was excluded from the analyses. However, we did not find significant differences in frequency of mobbing behaviour depending on cuckoo behaviour described as flight or sitting, or calling rather than remaining quiet. Therefore, we conclude that the use of a dummy for studying mobbing of hosts and non-hosts of the cuckoo provide results that are similar to those made in response to the behaviour of live hosts.