Individual sibling recognition in experimental broods of common tern chicks

Brian G. Palestis, Joanna Burger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Studies of kin recognition in birds have usually examined parent-offspring recognition, while studies of sibling recognition are relatively rare. Using choice experiments, we studied the development of sibling recognition among common tern, Sterna hirundo, chicks and tested the cues used for recognition. We collected newly hatched common tern chicks and raised them in a laboratory in 10 artificial broods of three. Chicks showed a significant preference for broodmates ('siblings') over familiar-nonsiblings (nonsiblings from neighbouring broods) when first tested at 4 days posthatching, earlier than previously reported. Preferential approach to siblings was most common in broods with low levels of intrabrood aggression. Responsiveness of test chicks was highest when test chicks and stimulus chicks could both see and hear each other and lowest when they could only hear each other. Sibling-biased approach did not depend on stimulus and test chicks seeing each other, only on test chicks seeing (and probably hearing) stimulus chicks. Surprisingly, no preference was shown for siblings over strange nonsiblings, suggesting that a preference for siblings may involve learning the identity of not only siblings, but also of chicks from neighbouring broods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-381
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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