SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Discrimination of foreign eggs is one of the most studied aspects of host defences against avian brood parasites. Although many factors affecting host egg-recognition processes have already been evaluated, only a few attempts have been made to test the importance of light conditions in microhabitats of host nests. Here, we examined whether the objectively measured nest light environment affects great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) responses towards real common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) eggs. More specifically, we predicted that parasitic eggs will be rejected with a lower frequency from nests placed in darker conditions than those in lighter conditions. However, we found no effect of the ambient light on egg-rejection behaviour alone, but the photosynthetically active radiation exhibited a positive interactive effect with chromatic contrast between cuckoo and host eggs. Most rejection events were accomplished when cuckoo eggs of poor mimicry were laid in well-lit nests. Our study suggests that this phenomenon may have important implications for the evolution of egg mimicry and host egg discrimination. We encourage further testing of the light environment hypothesis in other host species breeding in variable nest microhabitats and light conditions.