Effectiveness of nest defence in the Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax Virescens

Robert Olendorf, Scott K. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We used presentations of models to determine the effectiveness of nest defence in the Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax virescens against a nest predator (Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata) and a brood parasite (Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater). Principal components analysis (PCA) of four component variables of nest defence (call rate, swoop rate, closest approach and number of adults) generated a measure of overall nest defence (aggression). We determined effectiveness of defence by looking for correlations between measures of defence and measures of nest success (nest predation and brood parasitism). We also determined whether nest defence increased with clutch size, nestling age and time in the breeding season. Defence against model Brown-headed Cowbirds did not correlate with levels of parasitism, clutch size, age of young or time of breeding. There was, however, a strong, but insignificant, trend for nests with high levels of all measures of defence to suffer less from brood parasitism. Aggression, vocalization rate, closest approach and number of adults defending against models of predatory Blue Jays correlated positively with nesting success during the egg stage but not the nestling stage of the nesting cycle. Aggression, vocalization rate, closest approach correlated with clutch size and age of the brood. These results suggest that nest defence can effectively deter nest predators, but may be less effective against brood parasites. Different behavioural components of nest defence may work at different stages of the nest cycle and against different nest predators. The components of nest defence that correlated with nest success also correlated with clutch value, a result consistent with hypotheses on the evolution of nest defence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-371
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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