Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology

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Do Ostriches Struthio camelus reject parasitic eggs by making use of colour as a cue?

Flora J Magige, Bård G Stokke, Eivin Røskaft


The Ostrich communal breeding system involves several females laying in a single nest. Only the ‘major’ female and the territorial male, however, provide parental care from incubation to fledging of chicks. Eggs are turned and displaced frequently upon the onset of incubation, and the major female evicts excess eggs out of the nest when the number of eggs is above a specific threshold level. A previous study indicated that the major female ostrich recognises her own eggs and selectively evicts eggs of minor females based on size, shape and shell texture. Our aim was to investigate if accepted and ejected eggs differ in colour characteristics. We quantified colour by measuring egg reflectance spectra, which were subsequently analysed using a visual model approach. Within clutches, there were no significant differences in colour between accepted and ejected eggs. These results suggest that female ostriches do not discriminate against foreign eggs based on deviations in colour.

OSTRICH 2010, 81(3): 247–250

AJOL African Journals Online