Brood parasitism and cooperative nestingin the moorhen, Gallinula chloropus

Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus) Science Article 1


During a two year study of the moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, a quarter of the nests found had two or more females laying in them. This was the result of two features of the moorhens’ breeding biology: (1) Cooperative nesting; two (or more) females were paired to the same male. Both laid in the same nest, the second laid a large clutch synchronously to the first, and both cooperated in parental care. (2) Intraspeeifie brood parasitism; some females (parasites or dumpers) laid a small number of eggs at random in the nests’ of neighbours. Cooperatively nesting females were mother and daughter, while parasite and host were not. Parasitic females laid in their own nest as well, and generally did so after completing a dumping sequence. Parasitic eggs were laid at random dur-ing the host’s laying and incubation period, and were about a quarter as likely to produce an independent chick as were non-parasitic eggs. Parasitic females would probably have reared more chicks by laying in their own nests straight away, instead of dumping any eggs at all, because there was a strong decline in reproductive success with season.

David Wingfield Gibbons, Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1986) 19:221-232

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