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Effects of latitude on the trade-off between reproduction and moult: a long-term study with pied flycatcher

Hemborg, Christer, Sanz, Juan, Lundberg, Arne
Oecologia 2001 v.129 no.2 pp. 206-212
Ficedula hypoleuca, adults, birds, breeding, breeding season, breeding sites, fecundity, females, latitude, males, migratory behavior, molting, nestlings, reproductive success, summer, Mediterranean region, Spain
Long-distance migratory passerine birds are generally time constrained by reproduction and moult, which need to be completed before migration. Breeding and post-nuptial moult may overlap especially under time-constrained conditions (northern latitudes). Here, we analysed the timing of adult moult in relation to latitude, timing of breeding and reproductive effort in pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) breeding in four widely separated populations (40–68° N). In males but not females, the proportion of moulting birds while provisioning nestlings increased with increasing latitude. This may suggest that a moult-breeding overlap is a strategy employed by male pied flycatchers to adjust to the short breeding season at northern latitudes. However, the moult-breeding overlap was more pronounced among males in the southernmost study population (Spain). In this population, males may decide not to invest more in reproduction, and start moulting at earlier breeding stage than in northern populations,or, alternatively, birds in the Mediterranean region are time constrained by the hot and dry summer. The trade-off between breeding and post-nuptial moult may be more important in some populations than in others, depending on the latitude of the breeding site. Our results show that a moult-breeding overlap imposes a fitness cost on males in terms of fecundity and breeding success.