Nav: Home

UT study: Invasive brood parasites a threat to native bird species

September 16, 2015

KNOXVILLE -- North Americans might be seeing new species of birds in certain areas of the continent in the near future. According to research conducted by a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his co-authors, Eurasian birds are beginning to develop a presence on our continent, which could end up having a negative effect on native species.

Vladimir Dinets, research assistant professor of psychology, recently published a paper in the Journal of Field Ornithology examining the threats of global warming and its effects on wild animals. The warming climate is allowing various species in North America and Eurasia to get closer to, and even cross, the Bering Strait, a natural barrier only 50 miles wide. Birds from Eurasia, in particular, are crossing into North America.

Dinets, who has traveled extensively on both sides of the Bering Strait, notes that in the past 20 years, the vegetation of the region has changed dramatically. What used to be hundreds of miles of open tundra is now dense shrubland. And more southern bird species use this change to colonize new areas. For example, the savanna sparrow has recently begun breeding in Siberia, while the great spotted woodpecker has made it to Alaska for the first time.

Along with Mark Hauber, professor of neurobiology and behavior at City University of New York, and their co-authors, Dinets has discovered that two species of Eurasian cuckoos are on the verge of invading North America, and one of them may already be breeding here. These birds are considered brood parasites because they lay eggs into the nests of other birds and throw out the host's eggs to ensure there is no competition for food from the adoptive parents.

If these cuckoos become established in North America, the native bird population will decrease as a result. Some North American birds have evolved defenses against cowbirds, which are native brood parasites. But through their research, Dinets and Hauber have found that these defenses are likely to fail against the invasive cuckoos because cuckoos are more sophisticated parasites: for example, they can mimic the egg color of their hosts.

While the Eurasian cuckoos are threatening to invade North America, American cowbirds are increasing their presence in Eurasia. Many Eurasian birds have evolved defenses against cuckoos, but cowbirds are less picky about choosing their hosts, and might threaten other species that are not parasitized by cuckoos and have no defenses.

Dinets and Hauber are proposing to start monitoring when and where the invading cuckoos begin to breed in North America. They believe the foothold area will most likely be western Alaska, where a small number of people interested in birds are spread out over a large territory.

Dinets added that local fish and wildlife authorities, hunters and other people spending a lot of time outdoors should be taught to recognize Eurasian cuckoos in order to mitigate the effects when the cuckoos arrive.

"It is important to predict which native species are most at risk and to monitor their populations so that if they start to decline catastrophically, we can establish captive breeding programs and other supportive measures," he said.
-end-
To view the report on the research of Eurasian cuckoos invading North America, visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jofo.12111/abstract.

CONTACT:

Vladimir Dinets (865-974-3328, vdinets@utk.edu)

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lalapo@utk.edu)

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related Psychology Articles:

Psychology research: Antivaxxers actually think differently than other people
As vaccine skepticism has become increasingly widespread, two researchers in the Texas Tech University Department of Psychological Sciences have suggested a possible explanation.
In court, far-reaching psychology tests are unquestioned
Psychological tests are important instruments used in courts to aid legal decisions that profoundly affect people's lives.
Psychology program for refugee children improves wellbeing
A positive psychology program created by researchers at Queen Mary University of London focuses on promoting wellbeing in refugee children.
Psychology can help prevent deadly childhood accidents
Injuries have overtaken infectious disease as the leading cause of death for children worldwide, and psychologists have the research needed to help predict and prevent deadly childhood mishaps, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
Raising the standard for psychology research
Researchers from Stanford University, Arizona State University, and Dartmouth College used Texas Advanced Computing Center supercomputers to apply more rigorous statistical methods to psychological studies of self-regulation.
Psychology: Robot saved, people take the hit
To what extent are people prepared to show consideration for robots?
Researchers help to bridge the gap between psychology and gamification
A multi-disciplinary research team is bridging the gap between psychology and gamification that could significantly impact learning efforts in user experience design, healthcare, and government.
Virtual reality at the service of psychology
Our environment is composed according to certain rules and characteristics which are so obvious to us that we are scarcely aware of them.
Modeling human psychology
A human being's psychological make-up depends on an array of emotional and motivational parameters.
Study examines state of social, personality psychology research
University of Illinois at Chicago researchers conducted two studies to examine the state and quality of social and personality research and how practices have changed, if at all.
More Psychology News and Psychology Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.