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Experimental evidence for the influence of food availability on incubation attendance and hatching asynchrony in the Australian reed warbler Acrocephalus australis
journal contributionposted on 2003-01-01, 00:00 authored by C Eikenaar, Mathew BergMathew Berg, J Komdeur
The amount of time a bird allocates to incubation is likely to be limited by energetic constraints. If food is abundant, energetic constraints may be reduced and the time spent incubating (incubation attendance) may increase. Moreover, the onset of incubation in relation to clutch completion may be advanced, resulting in a higher degree of hatching asynchrony. We measured the effect of experimentally increased food availability on incubation attendance and an estimate of hatching asynchrony in the Australian reed warbler Acrocephalus australis. Supplementary food was provided every other day, from a few days before the start of egg laying until just prior to hatching. Incubation attendance was measured with temperature loggers at nests receiving supplementary food and control nests. Hatching asynchrony was inferred from mass and size differences between siblings shortly after hatching. We found that 1) food supplementation resulted in an increase in incubation attendance, when comparing both nests receiving supplementary food to control nests as well as feeding to non-feeding days in nests receiving supplementary food, and 2) food supplementation resulted in a greater hatching asynchrony, without affecting clutch size, average egg volume or the likelihood of eggs hatching. This suggests that food availability acts in a proximate way to modify the extent of incubation attendance and hatching asynchrony. We discuss the adaptive significance of increased incubation attendance and a shift in the degree of hatching asynchrony in relation to food availability.