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Anim Behav. 1999 Jan;57(1):125-131.

Woodpigeons nesting in association with hobby falcons: advantages and choice rules.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Animale, Università di Pavia


Many bird species nest in close association with other bolder and more aggressive birds which provide protection against nest predators. The woodpigeons, Columba palumbus, that nest in poplar plantations in Northern Italy are found almost exclusively clumped around hobby, Falco subbuteo, nests. Woodpigeons settle in the area and build their nests after the hobby has started nesting. We carried out experiments with dummy nests and observations on woodpigeon nests. Dummy woodpigeon nests placed near a hobby's nest suffered less depredation by hooded crows, Corvus corone cornix, than those placed far from it. A logistic regression analysis showed that three variables, hobby nesting stage, distance from the hobby's nest and the hobby's aggressiveness, influenced the probability of nest predation. The degree of protection varied during the hobby's nesting period and was highest when chicks were in the nest. The hobby's aggressiveness against intruders varied both between and within individuals during different nesting phases. The predation rate of dummy nests associated with the falcon was negatively correlated with the aggressiveness score of the hobby during the 6 days of dummy nest exposure. Observations on real nests showed that woodpigeons selected hobbies that had a high fledging success, and a more vigorous defensive behaviour. Clues that would allow woodpigeons to choose the best protector may be early nesting by the hobby and its aggressiveness. Hobbies preyed on adult woodpigeons, but the risk incurred by the woodpigeons was low compared with the very high risk of nest predation in this area.


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