The Evolution of Nest Sharing and Nest Mate Killing Strategies in Brood Parasites

  • Csaba MoskátEmail author
  • Mark E. Hauber
  • Matthew I. M. Louder
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


Chicks of avian brood parasites either cohabit with host nestlings (e.g., cowbirds, non-evictor cuckoos) or eventually eliminate their potential competitors and are raised as the sole inhabitants of the foster parents’ nest. This latter phenomenon, termed as direct killing, involves the young brood parasitic chick evicting all other eggs or hatchlings from the nest (e.g., evictor cuckoos) or killing their nest mates with their bill hook (e.g., honeyguides) and monopolize all food resources delivered by host parents. We overview the types of variability in parasite chick strategies toward nest mates and also discuss the potential reasons why competition vs. eviction behaviors have evolved in different parasitic lineages. We explore the possibility that one of the key factors for the evolution of nest mate acceptance versus direct killing was the virulence of the parasitic chick in relation to host nestling (competitive ability) and the ability to manipulate provisioning by the host parents. For extensive life history studies of the conflict between unrelated hosts and brood parasitic nestlings, we suggest that additional avenues for future research should explore and understand why and how evolutionary adaptations of brood parasitic nestlings have evolved.



We thank Manolo Soler for his invitation to contribute this chapter. We also thank Ross Gloag, Jarkko Rutila, and Manolo Soler for useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. For financial support, we thank the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH, NN118194 to CM). This study was also supported by the Human Frontier Science Program and the National Science Foundation (#1456524 and #1456612 to MEH and MIML).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Csaba Moskát
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark E. Hauber
    • 2
  • Matthew I. M. Louder
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.MTA-ELTE-MTM Ecology Research Group, A Joint Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of SciencesThe Biological Institute of the Eötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Department of Animal BiologySchool of Integrative Biology, University of IllinoisUrbana-ChampaignUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyHunter College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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