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Title: Patterns of Cowbird Parasitism in the Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont

Author: Kilgo, John C.; Moorman, Christopher E.;

Date: 2003

Source: Wilson. Bull. 115(3), 2003, pp. 277-284

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: Until recently, little information was available on patterns of brood parasitism by Brown- headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) in the southeastern United States, a region into which cowbirds expanded their range only during the last half of the Twentieth Century and where their abundance is relatively low. We compiled parasitism data from several published and unpublished studies conducted in Georgia and South Carolina from 1993-2000 to examine levels of brood parasitism and determine frequent host species. The combined dataset included 1,372 nests of 24 species reported in the literature to have been parasitized by cowbirds. The parasitism rate on all species combined was 8.2%. Considering only those species that served as hosts in these studies (n = 12), the parasitism rate was 9.3%. Seven species were parasitized at rates <10%. Based on the extent of parasitism (among studies and locations), their relative abundance, and the sample size of nests, Prairie Warblers (Dendroica discolor), Hooded Warblers (Wilsonia citrina), Yellow-breasted Chats (Icteria virens) and Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea), all shrub nesters, appear to be the most important cowbird hosts in the region. Parasitism on some species reported as frequent hosts elsewhere was extremely low or not documented. We conclude that the impact of brood parasitism on the seasonal fecundity of hosts in the region probably is minimal, but additional work is warranted on species of concern, such as the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris).

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Kilgo, John C.; Moorman, Christopher E. 2003. Patterns of Cowbird Parasitism in the Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont. Wilson. Bull. 115(3), 2003, pp. 277-284


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