Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (GxABT)
Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (GxABT)

Prospecting in wild jackdaws (Coloeus monedula) : effect of breeding success, parental activity and timing

Powis de Tenbossche, Raphaël ULiège
Promotor(s) : Verheggen, François ULiège ; Thorton, Alex
Date of defense : 25-Aug-2023 • Permalink :
Title : Prospecting in wild jackdaws (Coloeus monedula) : effect of breeding success, parental activity and timing
Translated title : [fr] La prospection chez le choucas de tours (Coloeus monedula) : effet du succès reproducteur, de l'activité parentale et de la période
Author : Powis de Tenbossche, Raphaël ULiège
Date of defense  : 25-Aug-2023
Advisor(s) : Verheggen, François ULiège
Thorton, Alex 
Committee's member(s) : Vermeulen, Cédric ULiège
Dufrêne, Marc ULiège
Monty, Arnaud ULiège
Language : English
Number of pages : 59
Keywords : [en] prospecting
[en] jackdaw
[en] information gathering
Discipline(s) : Social & behavioral sciences, psychology > Animal psychology, ethology & psychobiology
Research unit : Wild Cognition Research Group (University of Exeter)
Target public : Researchers
Institution(s) : Université de Liège, Liège, Belgique
Degree: Master en bioingénieur : gestion des forêts et des espaces naturels, à finalité spécialisée
Faculty: Master thesis of the Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (GxABT)


[en] Gathering information on potential breeding sites, a behaviour known as prospecting, can allow
animals to select a breeding habitat of high quality and enhance their breeding success. Prospecting is particularly common in birds, where it can take the form of visits of a conspecific’s nest. Despite extensive research on prospecting in birds, there are still uncertainties regarding how breeding success, parental investment, and timing affect both the individual investment in prospecting and the attractiveness of a nest to prospectors. In order to investigate those questions, we conducted a large-scale study on western jackdaws (Coloeus monedula) using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. I found that prospecting increases over the course of the chick-rearing stage, reaches a peak after the fledgling of the chicks and subsequently decreases over time. Nestboxes where the breeding attempt failed received less prospecting visits during both periods (provisioning and post-fledgling stages). During the provisioning phase, nestboxes with a higher parental activity received more prospecting visits. Accounting for this effect, the number of fledglings did not influence the number of prospecting visits received by the nest. Finally, failed breeders prospected more than successful individuals and no trade-off was observed between parental activity and investment in prospecting (i.e. birds than invested more in parental care did not invest less in prospecting). Those results support the idea that the breeding failure of an individual induces an increased investment in prospecting. Furthermore, they show that parental activity is an important cue for prospectors. Moreover, the finding that jackdaws can discriminate between failed and successful nests even during the post-fledgling stage raises questions about the mechanisms at play (cues in the nest or memory). Overall, this study showed that breeding success influences prospecting in jackdaws in multiple ways and highlighted the importance of including the post-fledgling stage when studying prospecting.


  • Powis de Tenbossche, Raphaël ULiège Université de Liège > Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech


Committee's member(s)

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