Nest defense of the red-backed shrike Lanius collurio against five corvid species


Michal Němec, Roman Fuchs

DOI: 10.1007/s10211-013-0175-z


We compared the antipredation behavior of the red-backed shrike against five European corvids including the jay, nutcracker, rook, crow, and raven. These species differ in body size and in the proportion of eggs and nestlings in their diets. The jay and nutcracker are the smallest, the rook and crow are middle-sized, and the raven being the largest corvid of all. The jay, crow, and raven are habitual nest predators, whereas the nutcracker and rook are not. The harmless pigeon was presented as a control. We analyzed (1) the number of attacks executed by shrikes against intruder presented close to shrike nests and (2) the distance between the intruder and the shrikes during the trial. The small corvids (the jay and nutcracker) were attacked significantly more intensively than the other, larger, corvids (the rook, crow, and raven) and pigeon control. All three large corvids were attacked as exceptionally as the pigeon. Shrikes approached closer to the small corvids and the pigeon than to the large corvids. These results imply that shrike antipredation strategy is adjusted to intruder size, but not to the level of intruder nest plundering specialization. Shrikes weigh up their ability to chase a given intruder away and avoid pointless aggression against large, undefeatable, intruders. This suggests that shrikes are able to asses not only the dangerousness of the intruder but also the potential advantageousness, or otherwise, of active defense.

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