Raptor Nest Decorations Are a Reliable Threat Against Conspecifics

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Science  21 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6015, pp. 327-330
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199422

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Individual quality is often signaled by phenotypic flags, such as bright plumage patches in birds. Extended phenotype signals can similarly show quality, but in these cases the signals are external to the individual, often taking the form of objects scavenged from the environment. Through multiple manipulative experiments, we showed that objects used for nest decoration by a territorial raptor, the black kite (Milvus migrans), act as reliable threats to conspecifics, revealing the viability, territory quality, and conflict dominance of the signaler. Our results suggest that animal-built structures may serve as signaling devices much more frequently than currently recognized.

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