Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

Common Eiders Favor Close Relatives

How do they recognize each other?
© Jack Stephens - High Arctic Institute View Large

Some species of birds try to save energy by tricking others into incubating their eggs. After studying the nests of Common Eiders, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden determined that trickery among close relatives of the nest owners caused no aggression. But the attempts of unrelated females often did result in conflict. If the eggs are laid by a close relative, the host may gain by favoring the spread of genes they share.

Support for BirdNote comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Curious about birdwatching? Find the tools to get started in "Joy of BirdWatching," an online course from the Cornell Lab Bird Academy.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Common Eiders Favor Close Relatives

Written by Gordon Orians

This is BirdNote. 

[Common Eider Nosey Gossip Sounds…]

Can birds tell who their relatives are? Recently, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden tried to find out. But first - a bit of background. 

Female birds of some species try to save energy by tricking others of the same species into incubating their eggs. They're known as brood parasites. If a bird incubates the eggs of unrelated females, she has more babies to care for, but gains no genetic benefits. If the eggs are laid by a close relative, though, the host may gain by favoring the spread of genes they share. [Common Eider Nosey Gossip Sounds…]

To try to discern whether birds can tell the difference, researchers filmed interactions at 65 nests of the Common Eider duck. They recorded whether there were fights when a female other than the owner of a nest tried to lay an egg there. And it turns out that close relatives caused no aggression. But, an unrelated female often did cause conflict if she tried to lay an egg there. 

So - female Eiders appear to act differently toward close relatives. 

Exactly how they recognize them, though, remains unknown. [Common Eider Nosey Gossip Sounds…]

For BirdNote I'm Mary McCann. 

Support for BirdNote comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, presenting its new "Bird Photography” online course, featuring Melissa Groo. Learn more at academy.allaboutbirds.org

 ###

Common Eider sounds [180423] recorded by Stein Nilson at Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, sourced from Xeno-Canto : http://www.xeno-canto.org/180423.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org    May 2015/2020   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#            COEI-01-2015-05-18 COEI-01 

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Related field notes:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More