Scheming chicks blackmail doting parents for more food

April 9, 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: For birds, the suburbs may not be an ideal place to raise a family

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

Related Stories

New Zealand bird outwits alien predators

June 4, 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

February 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

February 1, 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

June 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 Radford of the ...

Recommended for you

Big brains in birds provides survival advantage: study

September 25, 2017

Given how proud we are of our big brains, it's ironic that we haven't yet figured out why we have them. One idea, called the cognitive buffer hypothesis, is that the evolution of large brains is driven by the adaptive benefits ...

Panda habitat shrinking, becoming more fragmented

September 25, 2017

A study by Chinese and U.S. scientists finds that while populations of the iconic giant panda have increased recently, the species' habitat still covers less area and is more fragmented than when it was first listed as an ...

0 comments

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.