Interspecific feeding

Interspecific feeding refers to behaviour reported in wild animals, particularly birds where adults of one species feed the young of another species. This usually excludes the case of birds feeding brood parasites. The behaviour has been of theoretical interest since it appears to be provide little evolutionary benefit to the feeding bird.[1][2][3][4] Some researchers have suggested that it is mainly male birds that are lured into feeding a fledgling that begs[5][6][7][8]

Such behaviour is also related to alloparenting, cross-fostering and brood adoption. Several situations have been suggested that lead to this including:[2]

  1. Bird raised in a mixed clutch [9]
  2. Original nest and brood of bird destroyed
  3. Nests in very close proximity
  4. Calling of young birds stimulates behaviour
  5. Orphaned birds adopted temporarily or permanently
  6. Male bird feeding another species while mate incubated
  7. Feeding bird is mateless and finds a mateless bird at nest

Shy (1982) listed 65 species of birds involved in interspecific feeding. Riedman (1982) listed 150 species of birds that adopted young that did not belong to themselves.[10]


  1. ^ McNair, D B; Bill Duyck (1991). "Interspecific feeding among some Oscines" (PDF). Chat. 55 (1).
  2. ^ a b Shy, Marilyn Muszalski (1982). "Interspecific feeding among birds: A review" (PDF). J. Field Ornithol. 53 (4): 370–393.
  3. ^ Drozdz, R, M. Hromada, Pyotr Tryjanowski (2004). "Interspecific feeding of a Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) fledgling by adult Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella)". Biological Letters. 41 (2): 185–187.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Avita, Eytan; Eva Jablonka; Michael Lachmann (1998). "Adopting adoption" (PDF). Anim. Behav. 55 (6): 1451–1459. doi:10.1006/anbe.1998.0729. PMID 9641990. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-09. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
  5. ^ Lozano, GA; Lemon, RE (1998). "Adoption of yellow warbler nestlings by song sparrows". Wilson Bulletin. 110 (1): 131–133.
  6. ^ Southern, J. (1952). "Spotted Flycatcher feeding nestling blackbirds". British Birds. 45: 366.
  7. ^ Watson, J. W., M. Davison, and L. L. Leschner (1993). "Bald Eagles rear Red-tailed Hawks" (PDF). J. Raptor Res. 27: 126–127.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Eddinger, CR (1970). "The White-eye as an interspecific feeding helper" (PDF). Condor. 72 (2): 240. doi:10.2307/1366644. JSTOR 1366644.
  9. ^ Samplonius, Jelmer M; Both, Christiaan (2014). "A Case of a Three Species Mixed Brood after Two Interspecific Nest Takeovers" (PDF). Ardea. 102 (1): 105–107. doi:10.5253/078.102.0113.
  10. ^ Riedman, Marianne L. (1982). "The Evolution of Alloparental Care and Adoption in Mammals and Birds". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 57 (4): 405–435. doi:10.1086/412936. JSTOR 2826887.

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