Intra-specific plasticity in parental investment in a long-lived single-prey loader

Eric Stienen, Allix Brenninkmeijer, Wouter Courtens

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    Seabirds exhibit considerable behavioural flexibility
    in foraging investment in order to meet the nutritional
    needs of their chicks during variable environmental conditions.
    Although regulation of offspring provisioning is generally
    thought to be related to species-specific constraints
    imposed by central place foraging, some studies suggest
    different responses within the same species linked to local
    differences in foraging conditions. Under adverse conditions,
    seabirds are expected to be less flexible because they
    must secure their own survival chances first before investing
    in current reproduction. Short-ranging single-prey loaders
    are expected to show large intra-specific variation in time
    spent on foraging because their mode of foraging is energetically
    expensive, and because they face restricted possibilities
    to increase the numerical prey input to the colony
    compared to multiple prey loaders. In this study, we examined
    if and how the single-prey loading Sandwich Tern
    Thalasseus sandvicensis varies colony attendance based on
    the nutritional status of their chick as well as parental body
    condition in two study colonies. The proportion of time that a
    chick was left unattended at the colony negatively correlated
    with chick body condition, suggesting that the parents tried
    to counterbalance poor feeding conditions by investing more
    time in foraging. Energy transport rates to the chicks
    (corrected for time spent away from the colony) and body
    condition of the chicks were similar in both colonies. However,
    at Zeebrugge, where adults were in poor body condition,
    parental non-attendance was much lower than on
    Griend, even when chicks were in poor condition. Still, our
    results suggest that parental nest non-attendance in Sandwich
    Terns is merely a corrective response to food loss to
    kleptoparasitic gulls in order to meet the nutritional status of
    the chick, although an effect of adult body condition could
    not be excluded.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Ornithology
    Pages (from-to)699-710
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - 25-Jun-2015

    Thematic list

    • Sea and coastal birds

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B280-animal-ecology


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