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The effect of male incubation feeding on female nest attendance and reproductive performance in a socially monogamous bird

Amininasab, S. M., Birker, M., Kingma, S. A., Hildenbrandt, H. & Komdeur, J. Jul-2017 In : Journal of ornithology. 158, 3, p. 687-696 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

The incubation of eggs plays a key role in avian parental care. To ensure embryo development, incubating parents have to keep their eggs within the appropriate temperature limits. To do so, incubating individuals allocate substantial energy to the thermal demands of their eggs, but they face a trade-off with self-maintenance (own metabolism) because they usually cannot forage while incubating eggs. In species with female-only incubation, males can help their partners by providing them with food on the nest, a behavior which may enable females to spend more time incubating and could, consequently, lead to improved reproductive performance. In the study reported here, we first investigated whether incubation feeding by males affects nest attendance by females in Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and subsequently determined how this incubation feeding affects reproductive performance. We found that the female nest attendance tended to increase with increasing amounts of food supplied by their male partner. Thus, males may enable females to incubate more when needed, as suggested by our observation that male incubation feeding was more frequent when the ambient temperature was lower, and especially so when females incubated later in the breeding season (during the study period the ambient temperature decreased rapidly over the breeding season, which is exceptional). Although female nest attendance did not result in a shorter time until the eggs hatched or in higher hatching success, females that attended the nest more produced heavier nestlings. We suggest that the trade-off between self-maintenance and meeting the demands of egg incubation likely tends to be less when females received more assistance from their partner during the egg incubation period, resulting in a higher investment in offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-696
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of ornithology
Volume158
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul-2017

    Keywords

  • Blue Tit, Female nest attendance, Hatching success, Incubation period, Incubation feeding, Nestling body mass, ENERGETIC CONSTRAINTS, EXTRAPAIR COPULATIONS, FICEDULA-HYPOLEUCA, PARUS-MAJOR, CLUTCH SIZE, GREAT TITS, BEHAVIOR, FOOD, ENVIRONMENT, TEMPERATURE

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