Singing for your supper: Sentinel calling by kleptoparasites can mitigate the cost to victims

Andrew N. Radford*, Matthew B V Bell, Linda I. Hollén, Amanda R. Ridley

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Citations (Scopus)


    Parasitism generally imposes costs on victims, yet many victims appear to tolerate their parasites. We suggest that in some cases this may be because parasites provide victims with mitigating benefits, paradoxically giving rise to selection for advertisement rather than concealment by parasites. We investigate this possibility using the interaction between an avian kleptoparasite, the fork-tailed drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis), and one of its victims, the pied babbler (Turdoides bicolor). Combining field observations and a playback experiment, we demonstrate that a conspicuous vocal signal broadcast by drongos perched waiting to steal food from foraging babblers allows the latter to improve their own foraging efficiency, although not to the same extent as that experienced in response to conspecific sentinel calling. We argue that "sentinel" calling by drongos may originally have arisen as a means of manipulating babblers: because babblers find more food items and venture into the open more in response to these vocalizations, drongos are presented with more kleptoparasitism opportunities. However, the resulting benefit to babblers could be sufficient to reduce selection for the evolution of defenses against drongos, and the current situation may represent a rare example of an interspecific relationship in transition from a parasitism to a mutualism.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)900-906
    Number of pages7
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


    • Foraging success
    • Interspecific interaction
    • Mutualism
    • Parasitism
    • Vigilance
    • Vocal communication


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