On beaches along the Manu River of southeastern Peru, four bird species (Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger; Large-billed Tern, Phaetusa simplex; Yellow-billed Tern, Sterna superciliaris; Sand-colored Nighthawk, Chordeiles rupestris) nest in mixed-species associations. Costs and benefits of the association were distributed asymmetrically among the species. Nighthawks never actively defended their nests against predators. Terns and skimmers defended their nests by aggressively mobbing predators, and indirectly defended nearby or adjacent nests of nighthawks. As a result, nighthawks had greater hatching success when nesting near terns and skimmers. Terns and skimmers spent more time engaged in antipredator behaviors and being vigilant, but less time in parental care, and experienced lowered hatching success when among large nighthawk groups. In addition, both tern species fledged significantly fewer young per successful nest when nesting with many nighthawks. Results of this study demonstrate the first known parasitic relationship among members of a mixed-species nesting group.
Ecology publishes articles that report on the basic elements of ecological research. Emphasis is placed on concise, clear articles documenting important ecological phenomena. The journal publishes a broad array of research that includes a rapidly expanding envelope of subject matter, techniques, approaches, and concepts: paleoecology through present-day phenomena; evolutionary, population, physiological, community, and ecosystem ecology, as well as biogeochemistry; inclusive of descriptive, comparative, experimental, mathematical, statistical, and interdisciplinary approaches.
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