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Feeding freqency and parental division of Labour in the double-brooded great tit Parus major

  • Henrik G. Smith
  • Hans Källander
  • K Fontell
  • M Ljungström
Publishing year: 1988
Language: English
Pages: 447-453
Publication/Series: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume: 22
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

We studied the relative contribution of each sex and total effort expended in feeding nestlings in the great tit Parus major in relation to artificially altered brood size. A recent model suggests that feeding frequency should reflect the optimal trade-off between parental and fledgling survival, the former being negatively, the latter positively, influenced by high feeding frequencies. In both sexes weight loss was linearly related to feeding frequency. Since fledgling survival increases with nestling weight, the conditions of this model are fulfilled. However, in contrast to the predictions of the model, the total feeding frequency for both sexes combined did not differ between control and enlarged broods, but was lower for reduced ones. This outcome was not the result of a physiologically related inability of the parents to increase their delivery rate. Instead, we suggest that parents with enlarged broods could not find sufficient amounts of prey large enough to be economically worth transporting to the nest. Differences in brood-provisioning rates between the sexes may arise because costs and benefits of feeding nestlings may differ. Females lost more weight than males during the nesting period, but maintained a relatively higher weight during the incubation period. The relationship between weight loss and feeding frequency was similar for both sexes. Male and female brood-feeding frequency was related to brood size in a similar way. This is discussed in light of the great tit's mating system and the fact that the great tit is facultatively double-brooded.


  • ISSN: 1432-0762
Henrik Smith
E-mail: henrik [dot] smith [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 93 79

+46 70 978 20 56




Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC)

+46 46 222 93 79

+46 70 978 20 56


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Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden