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title: The relationship between defecation and feeding in nestling birds: observational and experimental evidence
author: Rui-chang Quan;  Huan Li;  Bo Wang;  Eben Goodale
Issued Date: 2015


Adult birds clean the nest by consuming or transporting feces, which is thought to be important in order to lower the levels of parasites, pathogens and predation at the nest. If nestlings were to defecate when parents were absent, however, feces could accumulate in the nest.


To understand the mechanism by which nest sanitation is maintained, we studied the timing of defecation in nestling birds of common passerine species in southwest China. In 159 nests of 8 species at the nestling stage during 779 randomly timed observations, we never found fecal sacs present. Video recordings, totaling 455 h at five Pycnonotus jocosus nests in the field, showed almost all defecation after feedings, and only nestlings that were fed defecated. Six translocated P. jocosus nests were taken into captivity in order to manipulate the frequency of feeding. These nestlings defecated only after feeding, even when feeding intervals were extended to 60 and 120 min. The fecal sac weight also increased with extended feeding intervals, demonstrating a remarkable plasticity for nestlings to wait for feedings.


The evidence allows two major conclusions: 1) defecation in the nest occurs at a time that ensures nest sanitation, stimulated by feeding, rather than there being a set time of gut processing between feeding and excretion; 2) the strong plasticity in the timing of defecation and the possibility of negative repercussions (if defecation occurs when parents are absent) are important mechanisms underlying the efficiency of the feeding-defecation system.

Source: Frontiers in Zoology
Appears in Collections:2012年后新成立研究组_期刊论文

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全文许可: Creative Commons 署名-非商业性使用-相同方式共享 3.0

Recommended Citation:
Rui-chang Quan,Huan Li,Bo Wang,et al. The Relationship Between Defecation And Feeding In Nestling Birds: Observational And Experimental Evidence[J]. Frontiers In Zoology,2015,12(21).

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