Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

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Taylor Hackemack
Taylor Hackemack

Do nest size and shape characteristics affect nest parasitism rates?

The survival strategy of obligate brood parasitic birds like the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is to lay their eggs in nests of host species and therefore avoid most of the reproductive costs required for raising chicks. Costs transferred to host species include the energy normally required to defend nests, incubate eggs and feed young. Hosts also incur possible reduced hatchling growth due to competition with parasite offspring, eviction of host eggs by earlier hatching parasite chicks, and an increased risk of nest abandonment (Kilner 2005, Servedio and Hauber 2006). To deceive hosts, parasites often choose a host whose eggs they can mimic to ensure a successful incubation without detection (Davies 2000). Not only do cowbirds and other brood parasites synchronize their laying to match the laying time of the host species to further diminish the risk of egg detection, brood parasitic eggs typically have thicker shells than host eggs (Mermoz and Reboreda 1999, Weatherhead 1991).

News / Recognition

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Katherine Abell, a wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture major, and Zachary Senneff, a forestry major, were among the winners of the 2014 MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Abell placed first in the community engagement and social sciences categories and Senneff placed second in the biological sciences and engineering category.

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