Parental care in the common tern (Sterna Nirundo): sexual roles in a monogamous seabird
Wiggins, David A.
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The parental behaviour of male and female Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) was documented throughout two breeding seasons at a colony near Port Colborne , Ontario. Thirteen and fourteen pairs of terns were chosen for intensive study in 1982 and 1983, respectively. The delivery of fish by males to their mates ("courtship feeding") occurred prior-to, during, and following the egg-laying period. Following the laying of the second egg, courtship feeding rates declined significantly. There was a significant, positive correlation bebween courtship feeding rates and subsequent chick feeding rates by males. The incubation rates of females were significantly higher than those of males, especially during the first ten days of incubation. Territorial attendance rates during the incubation stage were similar for males and females. During the chick stage, territorial attendance rates of females were significantly higher than those of males. The size of fish fed to chicks by males increased as the chicks grew older and chick feeding rates of males were approximately three times higher than female rates. Based on these quantitative differences in parental care activities, the cumulative parental time investment by the two sexes was very similar. However, the energetic investment by males was likely greater than that by females, since male parental contributions (e.g. courtship feeding and chick feeding) often entailed extensive foraging behaviour.