Highlights from the latest issue
January 2020 | Vol. 162, issue 1
The first issue of our 2020 volume is contains a Review paper, 13 Original articles, 5 Short Communications, a Viewpoint article, our regular book reviews and the latest report relating to the British List from the BOU Records Committee.
Here are just four of the many highlights in this issue.
Original Article: Dietary niches
- Urban exploiters have broader dietary niches than urban avoiders
Facundo Xavier Palacio
How birds are adapted to urban-life is an important focus of research given rapid global urbanisation. Using a dataset of more than 400 species, Facundo Xavier Palacio from the Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo in Argentina used traits related to diet to compare diet breadths of urban and non-urban bird species. The study found that urban exploiters were larger, consumed more vertebrates and carrion, and fed more frequently on the ground or aerially, and also had broader diets than urban avoiders. Palacio showed that urban species share similar diet characteristics allowing them to cope with urban environments but highlights the need to consider multiple dietary traits when determining how species will respond to environmental change.
Original Article: Breeding biology
- Post‐fledging interactions between the Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus and its cavity‐nesting Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus host
Michal Kysučan, Peter Samaš, Tomáš Grim
Brood parasite–host interactions during the incubation and nestling stages have been well documented, but little is known about the post‐fledging period. To explore this knowledge-gap, Michal Kysučan, Peter Samaš and Tomáš Grim from the Czech Republic studied a unique host–parasite system of the Common Cuckoo, where mixed broods are found with its host, the Common Redstart. Kysučan and colleagues found that Cuckoos raised alone were larger at fledging and started to fly at a younger age than Cuckoos raised alongside young Redstarts. However, most fledging and post‐fledging parameters did not differ between solitary and mixed Cuckoo nests. Surprisingly, there were no differences in survival rates between mixed and solitary Cuckoos or mixed and solitary Redstarts, suggesting that mixed Cuckoo fledglings were able to compensate during the post‐fledging period for their poorer start. Kysučan et al. therefore conclude that the frequent occurrence of mixed broods in this host–parasite system is evolutionarily stable for both hosts and parasites.
Short communication: Communication and signalling
- Yellow plumage colour of Great Tits Parus major correlates with changing temperature and precipitation
Miklós Laczi, Gergely Hegyi, Gergely Nagy, Rita Pongrácz, János Török
Can weather influence phenotypic traits involved in avian communication? To explore this question, Miklós Laczi and colleagues from Hungary examined the relationship between carotenoid‐based reflectance of freshly moulted breast feathers of Great Tits, with weather and food availability. They found a change of colour from more saturated and darker yellow plumage with increasingly dry and warm weather in both sexes. These fascinating results suggest that traits playing roles in avian communication could indeed respond to future climate change.
Viewpoint: Human-bird interactions
- Human facilitation of sap‐feeding birds in the Bijagós archipelago, West Africa
Jorge S. Gutiérrez, Teresa Catry, José Pedro Granadeiro
Human-bird interactions are often seen to be disadvantageous for birds. However, Jorge Gutiérrez, Teresa Catry and José Pedro Granadeiro from the Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal recorded three bird species regularly feeding on the sap flowing from holes made by local wine tappers in Oil‐palm trees in the Bijagós archipelago, Guinea‐Bissau, West Africa. This appears to be an example whereby humans indirectly provide food to birds that are not morphologically adapted to drill wells in plants to feed on sap flows. In this Forum article Gutiérrez and colleagues suggest that birds may also consume ethanol as a by‐product of sap fermentation, but how this novel behaviour has developed is not known. Therefore to address this question and others Gutiérrez et al. call for new observations of human–plant–bird interactions from the region and other palm‐growing areas of the world.
Cityscape | DEZALB CC0 PD goodfreephotos.com
Common Redstart | Jerzy Strzelecki CC BY SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons
Great Tit | Andreas Trepte CC BY SA 2.5 Wikimedia Commons
Mouse-brown Sunbird | © Jorge Gutiérrez