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Offspring defense by an urban raptor responds to human subsidies and ritual animal-feeding practices

AuthorsKumar, Nishant; Qureshi, Qamar; Jhala, Yadvendradev V.; Gosler, Andrew G.; Sergio, Fabrizio
Issue Date2018
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE, 13(10): e0204549 (2018)
AbstractThere is a growing interest in the behavioural and life history mechanisms that allow animal species to cope with rapidly expanding urban habitats, which impose frequent proximity to humans. A particular case of behavioral bottleneck (i.e. conflicting interests) faced by animals in urban environments is how they will modulate the defence of their offspring against the potential danger represented by humans, an aspect that has received scarce research attention. We examined the nest defense against humans by a dense breeding population of a raptor, the Black Kite Milvus migrans, within the megacity of Delhi (India). Here, kites live on a diet dominated by human waste and meat offered through religiously motivated bird feeding practices. Nest defense levels increased with the number of offspring, and with the progression of the breeding season. Defense also intensified close to ritual-feeding areas and with increasing human waste in the streets, suggesting synergistic effects of food availability, parental investment, personality-boldness and habituation to humans, with consequent attenuation of fear. Thus, the behavioural response to a perceived threat reflected the spatial mosaic of activity of humans in the city streets, their cultural practices of ritualfeeding, and their waste-management. For synurbic species, at the higher-end spectrum of adaptation to an urban life, human cultural practices and attitudes may well be the most defining dimensions of their urban niche. Our results suggest that, after initial urban colonization, animals may continue to adapt to the typically complex, heterogeneous environments of cities through fine-grained behavioural adjustments to human practices and activities.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0204549
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