A serendipitous observation by a history professor may have serious implications for many North American bird species.
D. Niler Pyeatt first noticed American Robins nesting in a cottonwood tree outside his office window at Wayland Baptist University, in Plainview, Texas, north of Lubbock, in April 2014. Days later, he saw a Eurasian Collared-Dove taking interest in, approaching, and eventually sitting in the nest when the robins were absent.
Within two days, the collared-dove began chasing the attending robin off the nest. “The collared-dove would land on a branch next to the nest with the robin and puff its chest and flap its wings rapidly until the robin left the nest,” Pyeatt and biologist Andrew Kasner report in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
Just a day later, the collared-dove drove the robins away and took over the nest. In late May, the collared-dove fledged two young from the nest.
It was the first documented piracy of a songbird nest by a Eurasian Collared-Dove. The species is invasive and widespread in North America, ranging from central Alaska to western Panama and the Caribbean.
“The potential exists for significant effects on songbird nest success throughout the range occupied by collared-doves if nest usurpation behavior becomes prevalent,” the researchers write. “Such effects would not be restricted to urban areas, as collared-doves are rapidly expanding into rural areas as they disperse along human-altered landscape features.”
A version of this article appeared in the August 2016 issue of BirdWatching.
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