Volume 13 Issue 1
Mar.  2022
Turn off MathJax
Article Contents
Canchao Yang, Anders Pape Møller, Wei Liang. 2022: Light matters: Nest illumination alters egg rejection behavior in a cavity-nesting bird. Avian Research, 13(1): 100016. doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100016
Citation: Canchao Yang, Anders Pape Møller, Wei Liang. 2022: Light matters: Nest illumination alters egg rejection behavior in a cavity-nesting bird. Avian Research, 13(1): 100016. doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100016

Light matters: Nest illumination alters egg rejection behavior in a cavity-nesting bird

doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100016
More Information
  • Corresponding author: E-mail address: liangwei@hainnu.edu.cn (W. Liang)
  • Received Date: 09 Oct 2021
  • Accepted Date: 18 Jan 2022
  • Publish Date: 02 Mar 2022
  • Egg discrimination by cavity-nesting birds that build nests under dim light conditions was presumed to depend on nest luminance, although this hypothesis has rarely been tested. Tests of egg discrimination ability by cavity-nesting tits under dim light conditions may reveal the selection pressure from brood parasitism that they encounter under natural interactions. We manipulated the intensity of luminance of nests of the Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus), a potential cuckoo host that possesses a strong discrimination ability of non-mimetic foreign eggs. We performed experiments to test their egg discrimination ability under different light conditions. Our results showed that Green-backed Tits discriminate against non-mimetic foreign eggs under normal light conditions in nest boxes, and this ability persisted at nest luminance as low as 4.78 ​± ​1.31 lux that is several times lower than normal luminance (38.11 ​± ​24.02 lux). However, egg discrimination by Green-backed Tits disappeared when nest luminance was reduced to a minimum of 0.35 ​± ​0.15 lux. The latter value represents total darkness for humans. The present study shows that nest luminance plays a key role in egg discrimination by Green-backed Tits that build nests under dim light conditions. This study provides strong experimental evidence for nest illumination altering egg rejection behavior in cavity-nesting birds.


  • loading
  • Antonov A, Aviles JM, Stokke BG, Spasova V, Vikan JR, Moksnes A, et al. Egg discrimination in an open nesting passerine under dim light conditions. Ethology. 2011; 117: 1128−1137 doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2011.01969.x
    Aviles JM,Martin-Galvez D, De Neve L, Soler M, Soler JJ. Ambient light in domed nests and discrimination of foreign egg colors. Behav Ecol Socibiol. 2015; 69: 425−435 doi: 10.1007/s00265-014-1855-z
    Aviles JM, Perez-Contreras T, Navarro C, Soler JJ. Dark nests and conspicuousness in color patterns of nestlings of altricial birds. Am Nat. 2008; 171: 327−338 doi: 10.1086/527493
    Aviles JM, Soler JJ, Hart NS. Sexual selection based on egg colour: physiological models and egg discrimination experiments in a cavity-nesting bird. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. 2011; 65: 1721−1730 doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1180-8
    Aviles JM, Soler JJ, Perez-Contreras T. Dark nests and egg colour in birds: a possible functional role of ultraviolet reflectance in egg detectability. Proc R Soc B. 2006; 273: 2821−2829 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3674
    Cherry MI, Bennett ATD. Egg colour matching in an Africancuckoo, as revealed by ultraviolet-visible reflectance spectrophotometry. Proc R Soc B. 2001; 268: 565−571 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1414
    Dainson M, Hauber ME, Lopez AV, Grim T, Hanley D. Does contrast between eggshell ground and spot coloration affect egg rejection? Sci Nat. 2017; 104: 54 doi: 10.1007/s00114-017-1476-2
    Davies, N.B., 2000. Cuckoos, Cowbirds and Other Cheats. T & AD Poyser, London.
    Goluke S, Dorrenberg S, Krause ET, Caspers BA. Female zebra finches smell their eggs. PLOS One. 2016; 11: e0155513 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155513
    Grim T, Samas P, Prochazka P, Rutila J. Are tits really unsuitable hosts for the common cuckoo? Ornis Fennica. 2014; 91: 166−177
    Hanley D, Grim T, Igic B, Samas P, Lopez AV, Shawkey MD et al. Egg discrimination along a gradient of natural variation in eggshell coloration. Proc R Soc B. 2017; 284: 20162592 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2592
    Hanley D, Lopez AV, Fiorini VD, Reboreda JC, Grim T, Hauber ME. Variation in multicomponent recognition cues alters egg rejection decisions: a test of the optimal acceptance threshold hypothesis. Phil Trans R Soc B. 2019; 374: 20180195 doi: 10.1098/rstb.2018.0195
    Honza M, Polacikova L. Experimental reduction of ultraviolet wavelengths reflected from parasitic eggs affects rejection behaviour in the blackcap Sylvia atricapilla. J Exp Biol. 2008; 211: 2519−2523 doi: 10.1242/jeb.017327
    Honza M, Prochazka P, Morongova K, Capek M, Jelinek V. Do nest light conditions affect rejection of parasitic eggs? A test of the light environment hypothesis. Ethology. 2011; 117: 539−546 doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2011.01900.x
    Honza M, Sulc M, Cherry MI. Does nest luminosity play a rolein recognition of parasitic eggs in domed nests? A case study of the red bishop. Naturwissenschaften. 2014; 101: 1009−1015 doi: 10.1007/s00114-014-1240-9
    Langmore NE, Stevens M, Maurer G, Kilner RM. Are dark cuckoo eggs cryptic in host nests? Anim Behav. 2009; 78: 461−468 doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.06.003
    Liang W, Moeller AP, Stokke BG, Yang C, Kovarik P, Wang H, et al. Geographic variation in egg ejection rate by great tits across 2 continents. Behav Ecol. 2016; 27:1405−1412 doi: 10.1093/beheco/arw061
    Liu J, Zhang L, Zhang L, Yang C, Yao C-T, Lu L, et al. Egg recognition abilities of tit species in the Paridae family: do Indomalayan tits exhibit higher recognition than Palearctic tits? Zool Res. 2020; 41: 726−733 doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2020.054
    Luro AB, Igic B, Croston R, Lopez AV, Shawkey MD, Hauber ME. Which egg features predict egg rejection responses in American robins? Replicating Rothstein’s (1982) study. Ecol Evol. 2018; 8: 1673−1679 doi: 10.1002/ece3.3759
    Lyu N, Liang W. Parasitism is always costly to the host. Zool Res. 2021; 42: 217−220 doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2020.332
    Marchetti K. Egg rejection in a passerine bird: size does matter. Anim Behav. 2000; 59: 877−883 doi: 10.1006/anbe.1999.1388
    Maziarz M, Wesolowski T. Does darkness limit the use of tree cavities for nesting by birds? J Ornithol. 2014; 155: 793−799 doi: 10.1007/s10336-014-1069-1
    Maziarz M, Wesolowski T, Hebda G, Cholewa M. Natural nest-sites of Great Tits (Parus major) in a primeval temperate forest (Bialowieza National Park, Poland). J Ornithol. 2015; 156: 613−623 doi: 10.1007/s10336-015-1169-6
    Medina I, Langmore NE. Nest illumination and the evolution of egg rejection in hosts ofbrood parasites. Auk. 2019; 136: 1−6
    Munoz AR, Altamirano M, Takasu F, Nakamura H. Nest light environment and the potential risk of common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) parasitism. Ornithology. 2007; 124: 619−627 doi: 10.1093/auk/124.2.619
    Peer BD, Hawkins LR, Steinke EP, Bollinger PB, Bollinger EK. Eastern bluebirds eject brown-headed cowbird eggs. Condor. 2006; 108: 741−745 doi: 10.1093/condor/108.3.741
    Podkowa P, Surmacki A. The importance of illumination in nest site choice and nest characteristics of cavity nesting birds. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 1329 doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-01430-y
    Rothstein, S.I., Robinson, S.K., 1998. Parasitic Birds and Their Hosts: Studies in Coevolution. Oxford Univ Press, New York.
    Soler, M., 2017. Avian Brood Parasitism: Behaviour, Ecology, Evolution and Coevolution. Springer International Publishing AG, Chambridge.
    Spottiswoode CN, Stevens M. Visual modeling shows that avian hostparents use multiple visual cues in rejecting parasitic eggs. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2010; 107:8672−8676 doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910486107
    Stokke BG, Polacikova L, Dyrcz A, Hafstad I, Moksnes A, Roeskaft E. Responses of reed warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus to non-mimetic eggs of different sizes in a nest parasitism experiment. Acta Ornithol. 2010; 45: 98−104 doi: 10.3161/000164510X516137
    Thomson RL, Tolvanen J, Forsman JT. Cuckoo parasitism in a cavity nesting host: near absent egg-rejection in a northern redstart population under heavy apparent (but low effective) brood parasitism. J Avian Biol. 2016; 47: 363−370 doi: 10.1111/jav.00915
    Underwood TJ, Sealy SG. UV reflectance of eggs of brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) and accepter and rejecter hosts. J Ornithol. 2008; 149: 313−321 doi: 10.1007/s10336-007-0272-8
    Vorobyev M, Osorio D. Receptor noise as a determinant of colour thresholds. Proc R Soc B. 1998; 265: 351−358 doi: 10.1098/rspb.1998.0302
    Wesolowski T, Maziarz M. Dark tree cavities - a challenge for hole nesting birds? J Avian Biol. 2012; 43: 454−460 doi: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2012.05704.x
    Wegrzyn E, Leniowske K, Rykowska I, Wasiak W. Is UV and blue-green egg colouration a signal in cavity-nesting birds? Ethol Ecol Evol. 2011; 23: 121−139 doi: 10.1080/03949370.2011.554882
    Yang C, Liang W, Antonov A, Cai Y, Stokke, BG, Fossoey F, et al. Diversity of parasitic cuckoos and their hosts in China. Chin Birds. 2012; 3: 9−32 doi: 10.5122/cbirds.2012.0004
    Yang C, Liang W, Cai Y, Shi S, Takasu F, Moeller AP, et al. Coevolution in action: disruptive selection on egg colour in an avian brood parasite and its host. PLoS ONE. 2010; 5: e10816 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010816
    Yang C, Liang W, Moeller AP. Egg retrieval versus egg rejection in cuckoo hosts. Phil Trans R Soc B: Biol Sci. 2019; 374: 20180200 doi: 10.1098/rstb.2018.0200
    Yang C, Wang L, Hsu Y-C, Antonov A, Moksnes A, Roeskaft E, et al. UV reflectance as a cue in egg discrimination in two Prinia species exploited differently by brood parasites in Taiwan. Ibis. 2013; 155: 571−575 doi: 10.1111/ibi.12043
  • 加载中


    通讯作者: 陈斌, bchen63@163.com
    • 1. 

      沈阳化工大学材料科学与工程学院 沈阳 110142

    1. 本站搜索
    2. 百度学术搜索
    3. 万方数据库搜索
    4. CNKI搜索


    Article Metrics

    Article views (95) PDF downloads(1) Cited by()
    Proportional views


    DownLoad:  Full-Size Img  PowerPoint