Costs and benefits of brood desertion in female kentishplovers, Charadrius alexandrinus

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) Science Article 3


Female kentish plovers Charadrius alexandrnus typically desert their broods after the chicks hatch, i.e. 1 4 weeks before the chicks fledge or become independent. In this paper we investigate the costs and benefits of desertion for females. Desertion incurs a cost for females: following desertion chick survival in broods is lower (0.95 + 0.02 day -1) than before the female deserts (0.98 + 0.01 day-l). We investigated several possible causes for reduced brood survival by comparing characteristics of broods before and after desertion (controlling for differences in brood age). After desertion males increased the time they spent foraging and they tended to reduce time spent brooding chicks. Increased mortality of chicks may occur in deserted broods because following desertion (1) males spend less time alert in vigilance behaviour than before desertion, (2) they attend the chicks from greater distances, and (3) they show greater distraction display distances (in response to human intruders). Growth or development of chicks, measured by weight gain and tarsus length, was not different before and after desertion. Females gain two potential benefits from desertion: (1) they may remate and produce a second brood within the same breeding season or (2) they may enhance their probability of surviving to breed in a sub- sequent season. At least 27% of female kentish plovers that deserted remated and renested in the same season in this study. In contrast, we found no evidence that brood desertion increased the survival of females: there was no difference in local survival rate (return rate) forfemales deserting before or after 6 days brood age. These results clearly demonstrate that female kentish plovers that desert their offspring prior to fledging incur costs, but we suggest that there is a trade-off with the potential benefits gained by remating and making asecond breeding attempt in the same season

Tamfis Szokely and Tony D. Williams, Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1995) 37:155 161

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