Dr Gabriel Jamie gave a webinar titled: “Africa’s Avian Cheats: Exploring the deceitful ways of cuckoos, honeyguides and parasitic finches”. The talk was part of BirdLife South Africa’s Conservation Conversation series and explores the amazing world of brood-parasitic birds in Africa. You can watch a recording of the talk here: https://youtu.be/7fesIIK2_Wk
Brood parasites are species that forego their parental duties. Instead lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and force them to rear their young. Africa is the continent with the greatest diversity of brood-parasitic birds on Earth. This includes many species of cuckoo, honeyguide and parasitic finch. Whilst all these birds face the common challenge of sneaking their eggs into the nests of another bird unnoticed and getting that bird to feed a foreign nestling, the solutions they have reached are extremely varied. These brood-parasites are entirely dependent on a small number of host species for their survival and their conservation is therefore intimately connected to the fate of their hosts. Conversely, host populations can be severely impacted by parasitism especially when host species are already endangered for other reasons. In this talk, Gabriel showcased some of the diverse strategies developed by the brood parasites of Africa to trick and exploit their hosts. He also highlighted the conservation implications of such interactions and show how a detailed knowledge of these birds’ breeding biologies is essential to conserving them.