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Host–parasite behavioral interactions in a recently introduced, whooping crane population

June 1, 2015

The whooping crane Grus americana has a long conservation history, but despite multiple attempts across North America, introduction success is lacking. Recently introduced, captively reared whooping cranes have had periods of poor reproductive performance in central Wisconsin that sometimes coincided with black fly (Diptera: Simuliidae) emergences. Sandhill crane Grus canadensis reproductive performance in central Wisconsin is approximately double that of whooping cranes. We used comfort behaviors as a measure of black fly harassment to infer whether behavioral differences existed between nesting sandhill cranes and nesting whooping cranes and between successful and unsuccessful whooping crane pairs. To further explore the interaction between black flies and incubating whooping cranes, we examined differences in behaviors between incubating birds and their off-nest mates. Compared to their off-nest mates, incubating whooping cranes exhibited elevated comfort behaviors, suggesting a bird at a nest may experience greater harassment from black flies. Sandhill cranes had elevated head-flicks over whooping cranes. Whooping cranes exhibited more head-rubs than sandhill cranes, and successful whooping crane pairs had elevated head-rubs over pairs that deserted their nests. Behavioral differences between sandhill cranes and whooping cranes as well as differences in reproductive performance, could be explained by exposure to local breeding conditions. Whereas sandhill cranes have nested in the area for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, whooping cranes were only recently introduced to the area. Behavioral differences between the species as well as those between successful and unsuccessful whooping crane pairs could also be explained by the effect of captive exposure, which could affect all whooping crane introductions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Host–parasite behavioral interactions in a recently introduced, whooping crane population
DOI 10.3996/042014-JFWM-032
Authors Rich King, Patrick C. McKann, Brian R. Gray, Michael S. Putnam
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Index ID 70155820
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center