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Keywords:

  • parent-absent begging;
  • spotless starling;
  • Sturnus unicolor ;
  • parental care;
  • sibling competition;
  • sibling negociation

Abstract

Begging in birds is a complex behaviour used by nestlings to solicit feeds from caregivers. Besides calling when parents are present, nestlings of some species also perform less conspicuous repeat calls when parents are absent. The fact that these calls are produced when parents are not at the nest does not mean that parents cannot hear them when they approach the nest or forage in its vicinity. In this study, we experimentally investigated the relationship between parent-absent repeat calls (ARC) and frequency of parental visits, considering parent/offspring communication as a possible implication of these acoustic signals. A playback experiment was conducted to detect changes in parental investment in response to increases in parent-ARC, expecting a differential sexual response. Results showed that females clearly responded to repeat calls, increasing their visit rate significantly with respect to females that received the control treatment. Males, on the contrary, did not change their visit rate in response to the treatment. This result provides evidence for a role of parent/offspring communication in parent-absent repeat calling, an additional function to sibling negotiation processes. The sex-specific response that we found is in agreement with previous studies that have found that females are more responsive than males to variation in solicitation and hunger signals performed by nestlings.