• Seasonal variation in hatching pattern and chick survival in the ring-billed gull Larus delawarensis

      Killoran, Michael R.; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 1993-07-09)
      The general objective of my study was to monitor proximate causes and seasonal patterns of hatching asynchrony and chick survival in the Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis). Two different plots were set up at a Ring-billed Gull colony near Port Colborne, Ontario in the summer of 1992. One group was from 'peak' nesting pairs (clutches initiated between 15 April and 1 May); a second group was from 'late' nesting pairs (clutches initiated between 9 .. 22 May). Despite equal intra-clutch egg laying intervals between the peak and late periods, intra-clutch hatching intervals lengthened as the season progressed (ie. hatching became more asynchronous). Clutches from both periods were monitored for nocturnal attendance and brood patch development of parents was monitored during the egg laying period. Late nesters were characterized by an absence of nocturnal desertion, substantial brood patch defeatheration at clutch initiation and a reduction in the number of chicks fledged per pair. Chick survival to 25 days (taken as fledging) reflected patterns of chick mass at brood completion and five days post-brood completion, in peak clutches. In late clutches, survival was poor for all chicks and, was partially independent of hatching order, due in part to stochastic events such as Herring Gull predation and adverse weather. In both the peak and late periods, last-hatched C-chicks realized the poorest survival to fledging among brood mates. An artificial hatching pattern (manipulated synchrony) and an artificial hatching order were created, in three-chick broods, through a series of egg exchanges. In peak and late clutches manipulated to hatch synchronously (s; 24 h): C-chick survival to fledging did not differ from the survival of A- and B-chicks, in the peak period. In the late period, the survival of C-chicks was significantly lower than that of A-chicks. In peak clutches manipulated such that chicks from last-laid eggs (C-chicks) hatched 24 h - 48 h ahead of the A- and B- chicks, C-chick survival was greater than in controls. Within those broods, C-chicks survived better on average than both A- and B- chicks.