A parasitic cuckoo can be a good thing | Science News

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A parasitic cuckoo can be a good thing

In moments of danger, intruder chick releases slime that may foil attackers

4:14pm, March 20, 2014

MIXED BLESSING  A great spotted cuckoo chick (front) doesn’t directly kill the carrion crow nestlings it grows up with and, in a crisis, it may benefit the entire nest.

A parasitic cuckoo chick foisted upon other birds can turn out to be luck in disguise, saving the nest with a disgusting defense.

About 1 percent of bird species, including cuckoos, outsource their childcare by sneaking into other birds’ nests and leaving an egg.

The intruder chick often kills or outcompetes the rightful offspring of a nest. Defense by cuckoo chicks of carrion crow nests at high risk of predator attack could be the first example of a parasitic bird’s benefit to its host, says ecologist Daniela Canestrari of the University of Oviedo in Mieres, Spain.

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