Investigating how different classes of nest predators respond to the playback of the begging calls of nestling birds

Shilong Liu, Qiao Xie, Aiwu Jiang*, Eben Goodale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Begging brings benefits and costs for nestling birds: it can indicate their needs to their parents, but it can also be a cue used by predators to find the nest. The costs, like many variables related to nest predation, can be specific to what kinds of predators are present and their auditory capabilities. These costs and benefits could also be affected by human noise, as noise could disrupt communication to parents and eavesdropping by predators, although human-produced noise might be easily ignored if predators can hear high-frequency components of the begging. We studied nest predation on a generalist bird, the Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), in a tropical forest in which there are many kinds of nest predators, including birds, mammals and reptiles. In 20 natural nests in which artificial eggs were placed, and subsequently in 140 artificial nests, we broadcast recordings of begging nestlings, with and without traffic noise, at two volume levels. We hypothesized that playback would increase predation relative to a silent control, and that mixing in traffic noise with the begging would decrease predation, as the begging signal was masked. However, we hypothesized that some predators, particularly small mammals with sensitive high-frequency hearing, might ignore the traffic noise. We found that predation was lowest for the control treatment, and lower for treatments mixed with traffic noise than for those without it. Small mammals, however, showed an unexpected pattern, displaying less nest predation in the treatments with traffic noise. Our results demonstrate the human-associated noise can disturb nest predators and influence which kinds of predators use begging to locate nests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100044
JournalAvian Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropogenic noise
  • Begging
  • Bird reproduction
  • Nest predation
  • Playback


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