Scheming chicks blackmail doting parents for more food

Apr 09, 2013
Chicks gather in their enclosure in a chicken farm. Fledglings of a southern African bird species threaten suicide to blackmail their parents into bringing them more food, scientists said Wednesday.

Fledglings of a southern African bird species threaten suicide to blackmail their parents into bringing them more food, scientists said Wednesday.

When hungry, pied babbler fledglings flutter from the nest to the ground, where predators roam, and start screeching to highlight their plight, said a study published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"This stimulates adults to increase their provisioning rates," the science team wrote. "Once satiated, fledglings return to the safety of cover."

The strategy is dangerous, as the birds are not good flyers at this tender age and at particular risk of on the ground.

But the short-term risk of being caught is probably lower than the long-term costs of being small and weak, said the paper.

Pied babblers have high reproductive rates and competition for mates is high.

Weaker birds are often kicked out of the nest by siblings, putting them at a huge disadvantage in the race for survival and procreation.

Explore further: Purring tempo, sliding notes grab cats' attention

More information: The influence of fledgling location on adult provisioning: a test of the blackmail hypothesis, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098/rspb.2013.0558

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Zealand bird outwits alien predators

Jun 04, 2008

New research published in this week's PLoS ONE, led by Dr Melanie Massaro and Dr Jim Briskie at the University of Canterbury, which found that the New Zealand bellbird is capable of changing its nesting behaviour to protect ...

River regulation influences land-living animals

Feb 28, 2013

Forest-living insects and spiders become less abundant and birds are adversely affected along regulated rivers. Three different studies by ecologists at Umeå University show that river regulation has a negative effect also ...

Hunger may inhibit defensive behavior

Feb 01, 2012

Most animals don't spend nearly as much time and energy defending nesting or mating sites against intruders outside the breeding season. That's a given.

The watchman’s song

Jun 17, 2008

Soldiers on sentry duty in hostile territory keep in regular radio contact with their colleagues to assure them that all is well and that they are safe to carry on their manoeuvres. New research by Dr Andy ...

Recommended for you

A molecular compass for bird navigation

Feb 27, 2015

Each year, the Arctic Tern travels over 40,000 miles, migrating nearly from pole to pole and back again. Other birds make similar (though shorter) journeys in search of warmer climes. How do these birds manage ...

100,000 bird samples online

Feb 27, 2015

The Natural History Museum (NHM) in Oslo has a bird collection of international size. It is now available online.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.