Recent switch by the Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias fannini in the Pacific northwest to associative nesting with Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to gain predator protection

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Abstract:

The Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias fannini Chapman, 1901 in the Pacific northwest appears to have modified nesting behaviour in response to the strong recent recovery of the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus (L., 1766)) population. Previously undescribed, herons now often nest in close association with some breeding eagles, even though eagles depredate heron nestlings, are implicated in the recent reproductive decline of herons, and may induce abandonment of heron breeding colonies. We tested the hypothesis that breeding herons gain protection from the territorial behaviour of eagles. Natural observations and simulated incursions showed that nesting eagles actively repel other eagles within at least 250 m around the nest site, thereby establishing a relatively safe place for herons to nest. Surveys showed that 70% of heron nests and 19% of heron colonies were located within 200 m of eagle nests with high reproductive success. These herons had greater reproductive success than those nesting far from eagle nests.
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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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