Broad reduction and adoption in ring-billed gulls (Larus Delaworensis): the potential for inergenerational conflict
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Patterns of intra-clutch egg size variation and intra-clutch hatch intervals in the Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) were documented during the peak nesting period of two consecutive breeding seasons, at a colony near Port Colborne, Ontario. Egg size decreased with laying order; third laid eggs were significantly smaller than first laid eggs. Hatching of the third egg was delayed from that of first and second eggs. Intraclutch egg size differences established initial size disparities among chicks at hatch. Hatch intervals further exaggerated size disparities during the early post brood completion period. Competitive asymmetries among chicks were associated with increased mortality rates among third hatched chicks despite the lack of evidence of a sibling feeding hierarchy. Fledging success in 1987 was greater than in 1988. A "brood reduction strategy" appears to have enabled parents in 1987, to obtain an extra unit of reproductive fitness, while in 1988 parents were often unable to raise the entire brood and third chicks likely represented insurance reproductive value. Experimental broods (1988) were created in which hatch intervals were double those of natural intervals. The size disparities among chicks were significantly greater than in control broods, and the pattern of mortality among chicks suggested that first chicks benefited at a cost to second and third chicks. Parents of peak experimental broods achieved a fledging success rate similar to that of control broods. Characteristics of chick adoptions were also recorded. In each study year, 9 chicks abandoned their natal territories, 6 of which were adopted. Chicks consistently established themselves into broods where they were older than resident chicks. No direct evidence of cost to foster parents, or benefits to adopted chicks was obtained, although fledging success of adopted chicks was high.