Main content area

Azure‐winged Magpies Cyanopica cyanus trade off reproductive success and parental care by establishing a size hierarchy among nestlings

Da, Xin‐Wei, Xian, Li‐Li, Luo, Juan‐Juan, Gao, Li‐Fang, Du, Bo
TheIbis 2018 v.160 no.4 pp. 769-778
birds, eggs, fledglings, hatching, nestlings, nests, parents, reproductive success
It is common in birds that the sizes of nestlings vary greatly when multiple young are produced in one nest. However, the methods used by parents to establish size hierarchy among nestlings and their effect on parental provisioning pattern may differ between species. In the Azure‐winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus, we explored how and why parents controlled the sizes of nestlings. Asynchronous hatching was the main cause of size hierarchy within the brood, although the laying of larger eggs later in the laying sequence reduced this effect. Parents with asynchronous broods produced more eggs and fledged more nestlings than those with synchronous broods but their brood provisioning rates, food delivery per feeding bout and feeding efficiency did not differ. We performed a cross‐fostering experiment to synchronize some asynchronous broods. Provisioning rates of asynchronous broods were lower than those of synchronized broods, but the daily growth rates and fledging body mass of their nestlings were not different. Our findings indicate that parents of asynchronous broods can achieve higher reproductive success than those of synchronous broods based on the same parental care, and the same reproductive success as those of synchronized broods based on less parental care. It appears that parent birds can better trade off reproductive success and parental care by establishing a size hierarchy among nestlings.