Obligate brood parasitic birds have evolved a rare avian strategy for reproduction by laying eggs in the nests of other species. In doing so, their breeding ranges, but not necessarily their foraging habitats, have become intimately related to the nesting territories of their hosts. We studied home range sizes and distribution patterns in Common Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) on their breeding grounds in central Hungary, where cuckoos parasitize only Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) in channel-side reed-beds at a high frequency (>50%). The geographic coordinates of tagged cuckoos were monitored by high-precision, remotely downloadable non-Platform Terminal Transmitter global positioning system (GPS) loggers, attached to 9 females and 6 males. Our results revealed bimodal use of habitat patches: (1) the home ranges of male and female cuckoos were packed densely along the channels where the hosts breed, and their distribution maps had high overlaps between sexes; (2) ∼71% of cuckoos also visited nearby woodland patches, presumably for foraging, where the host species was not present. The size of cuckoo home ranges varied to an unusually great extent: 0.3–185 km2 as calculated by the minimum convex polygon method (85%), or 1–17 km2 when calculated by the more suitable kernel density estimation (KDE) method (Utilization Distribution 85%) for patchy habitats. Male and female cuckoos had similar home range sizes as estimated by the KDE method, consisting of 1–4 areas within the 2 habitat types of channel reed-beds and woodlands. No preference was revealed for night roosting locations between the 2 habitats or sexes. Female cuckoos were more likely to use reed-beds in the afternoons, when females parasitize host nests. Remote downloadable GPS methods offer an effective way of tracking cuckoos across large areas, but the estimation of home range sizes requires caution due to this species' patchy and disconnected habitat use.
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Vol. 136 • No. 2