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Human footprint and vulture mortality

Events of non-natural mortality in human-dominated landscapes are especially challenging for populations of large vertebrates with K strategies. Among birds, vultures are one of the most threatened groups experiencing sharp population declines due to non-natural mortality. Factors causing non-natural mortality are usually studied separately. However, the potential use of an integrated index able to predict large-scale mortality risks of avian scavengers could be especially useful for planning conservation strategies. Here, the Human Footprint index was used to examine the impact of landscape anthropization on the survival rates of 66 GPS-tagged adult Eurasian griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) in two Spanish regions. Foraging in more anthropized areas resulted in a significantly higher individual mortality risk mainly due to collisions with vehicles, poisonings, electrocutions and fatalities with wind turbines. Mean yearly survival rates were estimated at 0.817 and 0.968 for individuals from the more and less anthropized regions, respectively. Additional research should investigate whether some vulture populations could be acting as sinks unnoticed due to metapopulation dynamics. From a broader point of view, this study shows that a straightforward Human Footprint was a useful index to predict the survival of top scavengers and can be highly applicable to planning large-scale conservation measures. informacion[at] Arrondo et al (2020) Landscape anthropization shapes the survival of a top avian scavenger. Biodivers Conserv.
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The costs of nestling begging behavior

The costs of nestling begging behavior

Many theoretical models on the evolution of nestling begging assume this behavior is costly, so that only nestlings in real need of food would profit from giving intensive signals to parents. However, evidence accumulated for the last 2 decades is either contradictory (growth costs) or scant (immunological cost). Here, the existence of both costs is experimentally tested in pied flycatcher nestlings, a species in which parents appropriately respond to honest begging signals. Nestlings were paired by nest of origin and similar body mass. In each pair, a nestling was forced to beg for 51s/meal, whereas the other begged for only 3.4s/meal, both receiving the same amount of food. Simultaneously, the nestling immune response to an antigen (phytohemagglutinin) was measured. Experimental nestlings showed reduced immunocompetence compared with control chicks, which in this species could be regarded as a genuine direct cost. High-begging nestlings also gained less mass during the daylight activity hours. However, they lost less mass while resting at night, resulting in similar mass gains for both groups across the whole daily cycle. This suggests that negative effects of excess begging on mass gain can be compensated for by nestlings, thus avoiding the negative fitness consequences (i.e., cost) of a retarded growth. Mixed results found in previous studies may reflect interspecific differences in compensatory changes in mass gain. But if such differences do not map into fitness consequences, they may be of little help to answer the question of whether begging entails direct growth costs. Redondo et al (2016) Pied flycatcher nestlings incur immunological but not growth begging costs. Behav Ecol doi: 10.1093/beheco/arw045