The nest defence by the red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) - support for the vulnerability hypothesis.

Strnadová, Irena; Němec, Michal; Strnad, Martin; Veselý, Petr; Fuchs, Roman

6 March 2018

The majority of altricial bird species defend their brood against predators more intensively in nestlings rather than eggs stage. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain this difference. The majority of existing experimental studies have recorded a gradually increasing intensity of nest defence supporting the reproductive value hypothesis. We have compared nest defence in two nesting stages of the red-backed shrike against two predators of adult birds and against two predators of nests. While the nests with nestlings were defended by parents against three out of four predators, nests with eggs were almost not defended at all. This rapid change in parent nest defence supports rather the vulnerability hypothesis, predicting that the threat to nests with nestlings increases rapidly after hatching, as they became more conspicuous due to their begging and parental provisioning. Unlike most of the species tested previously, the red-backed shrike uses very vigorous mobbing towards predators. We suggest that the occurrence of this active mobbing (strikes, including physical contact) is a good proxy of the current threat to the nest.