Facing a Clever Predator Demands Clever Responses - Red-Backed Shrikes (Lanius collurio) vs. Eurasian Magpies (Pica pica)
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Red-backed shrikes (Lanius collurio) behave quite differently towards two common nest predators. While the European jay (Garrulus glandarius) is commonly attacked, in the presence of the Eurasian magpie (Pica pica), shrikes stay fully passive. We tested the hypotheses that this passive response to the magpie is an alternative defense strategy. Nesting shrikes were exposed to the commonly attacked European kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) in a situation in which i) a harmless domestic pigeon, ii) a commonly attacked European jay, and iii) a non-attacked black-billed magpie are (separately) presented nearby. The kestrel dummy presented together with the magpie dummy was attacked with a significantly lower intensity than when it was presented with the other intruders (pigeon, jay) or alone. This means that the presence of the magpie inhibited the shrike’s defense response towards the other intruder. These results support our previous hypotheses that shrikes use an alternative defense strategy in the magpie’s presence. We hypothesize that the magpie is able to associate the active defense of the shrikes with the close proximity of a nest and that shrikes try not to draw the magpie’s attention to the nest. The reason why this strategy is not used against the jay remains unanswered as jays as well as magpies show very similar cognitive and foraging skills enabling them to individuate the nest presence according to active parental defense.
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