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Sib-sib communication and the risk of prey theft in the barn owl Tyto alba
Journal of Avian Biology
Conflicts among siblings are widespread and their resolution involves complex physical and communication tools. Observations in the barn owl Tyto alba showed that siblings vocally communicate in the absence of parents to negotiate priority of access to the impending food resources that parents will bring. In the present paper, we hypothesize and provide correlative evidence that after a parent brought a food item to their progeny, sibling competition involves vocal sib-sib communication. A food item takes a long time to be entirely consumed, and hence siblings continue to compete over prey monopolization even after parents gave a food item to a single offspring. When physical competition is pronounced and thereby the risk of prey theft is high, the individual that received a prey item consumes it in a concealed place. Concomitantly, nestlings vocalize intensely probably to indicate their motivation to siblings to not share their food item, since this vocal behaviour was particularly frequent in younger individuals for which the risk of being robbed is higher than in their older siblings. Furthermore, nestlings consumed more rapidly a food item when their siblings vocalized intensely presumably because the intensity of siblings' vocalizations is associated with a risk of prey theft. Our correlative study suggests that sibling competition favoured the evolution of sib-sib communication under a wide range of situations.
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