Nest tubular entrance characteristics are not predictive of brood parasitism by Striped Cuckoos on Yellow-chinned Spinetails


The interactions between parasitic birds and their host species can result in a wide range of adaptations. For cavity-nester hosts, for instance, nest entrances can reduce parasite access when the latter are larger than the host species, and for at least one group of birds, the weaverbirds, the construction of elongated tubular entrances was hypothesised to reduce interspecific brood parasitism. The function of tubular entrances as antiparasitic defences in closed-nester hosts, however, is one of the less investigated aspects of brood parasitism. Here, we tested the hypothesis that nest tubular entrance can reduce parasitism by the Striped Cuckoo, Tapera naevia, in a population of the closed-nester Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Certhiaxis cinnamomeus. We predicted that if the parasite uses a nest entrance to deposit its eggs, either by entering the nest through the tube or making an egg pass through the tube somehow, then nests with tubes that are longer, narrower, curved, and with low inclination would have lower parasitism probability. Modelling analyses, however, suggested this hypothesis should be rejected, as vegetation cover above nests was the only parameter marginally correlated to parasitism probability. As the parasite was too big to pass through the tubular entrance, and no tunnel enlargements that could evidence attempts to enter were observed, our findings were consistent with a model in which T. naevia may lay their eggs at the rim of the tube entrance, and eggs may roll down towards the incubatory chamber, despite tube length, width, and curvature. Parasitism could be facilitated by the downward inclination of most tubes, but it has to be confirmed by direct observations.

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We are grateful to João Murcia and Diogo Miguel for field assistance, James Winter for logistical support, and the company owning the study area for authorizing our access to the marshlands (RADAR/Nova Amaralina S.A. Propriedades Agrícolas). We are also especially grateful to two anonymous referees that provided valuable suggestions on the previous version of this manuscript.


AM received a fellowship from Fundação Parque Zoológico de São Paulo, and MCC and CABM received fellowships from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). MRF Received a Productivity Research Fellowship (CNPq - Proc# 308702/2019-0).

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AM and MRF conceived the study design; AM, MCC, CABM, and MRF carried out data collection; AM and MRF analysed the data and wrote the first version of the paper; AM, MCC, CABM, and MRF contributed with the elaboration of the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mercival R. Francisco.

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The authors have no competing interests.

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Fieldwork procedures were in compliance with the Brazilian legislation. Bird capture, marking, and nest checking were approved by the Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade, SISBIO/ICMBio (permit #60880-1), and by the Ethical Committee for the Use of Animals (CEUA: permit # 8369111217) from Universidade Federal de São Carlos, UFSCar. Fieldwork at the private property was authorized by the company owning the farm (RADAR/Nova Amaralina S.A. Propriedades Agrícolas).

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Murcia, A., Costa, M.C., Medolago, C.A.B. et al. Nest tubular entrance characteristics are not predictive of brood parasitism by Striped Cuckoos on Yellow-chinned Spinetails. Ornithol. Res. 28, 221–228 (2020).

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  • Certhiaxis cinnamomeus
  • Nest polymorphism
  • Nest tube
  • Tapera naevia