We studied Creamy-bellied Thrush (Turdus amaurochalinus) defenses against brood parasitism by Shiny Cowbirds (Molothrus bonariensis). Shiny Cowbirds decrease the reproductive success of Creamy-bellied Thrushes, and having historical habitats and ranges that overlap, we expected that thrushes possess antiparasitic defenses. We analyzed nest attendance during prelaying, laying and incubation; responses to the presentation of a model of a female cowbird or a control species close to the nest; nest abandonment associated with parasitism; and responses to experimental parasitism with white or spotted cowbird eggs (with or without the simultaneous presentation of a female cowbird model). Nest attendance was 58%–68% during prelaying and 83%–90% during laying and incubation. Thrushes had a shorter latency in returning near the nest and visited nests more frequently when we presented the cowbird model than the control model. The frequency of abandonment of parasitized nests was low and was not temporally associated with parasitism. Thrushes ejected white eggs more frequently than spotted eggs when parasitism was associated with the presentation of the cowbird model, but there were no differences when the model was absent. Our results indicate that Creamy-bellied Thrushes recognize cowbirds as a threat and eject white but not spotted cowbird eggs. We postulate that the low impact of cowbird parasitism on thrush hatching success and chick survival and the likelihood of recognition errors when parasite eggs resemble host eggs may have prevented the evolution of egg ejection in this host.
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Vol. 107 • No. 4