Is income breeding an appropriate construct for waterfowl?

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Breeding birds use a range of nutrient accumulation and allocation strategies to meet the nutritional demands of clutch formation and incubation. On one end of the spectrum, capital breeders use stored nutrients acquired prior to clutch formation and incubation to sustain metabolism during reproduction, while on the opposite end, income breeders derive nutrients solely from exogenous sources on the breeding grounds. Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) are an ideal candidate to test for adoption of an income strategy among migratory waterfowl because of their small body size, temperate breeding range, and timing of reproduction relative to pulses in nutrient availability within breeding habitats. We collected migrating and pre-breeding Blue-winged Teal (n = 110) during the warmest spring in over a century in the southern edge of the species’ breeding range, which produced ideal conditions to test for adoption of an income breeding strategy among migratory waterfowl. Regression analyses revealed that females accumulated protein and fat reserves early in follicle development and appeared to mobilize at least some reserves coincident with the onset of clutch formation. Accumulation and subsequent mobilization of nutrient reserves was inconsistent with adherence to an income breeding strategy and suggested breeding Blue-winged Teal used capital (albeit locally acquired) for reproduction. Our results add to existing knowledge on the ubiquity of endogenous nutrient reserve accumulation prior to and during reproduction by waterfowl, perhaps suggesting endogenous nutrient reserves are universally used for clutch formation or incubation to some degree. If indeed Blue-winged Teal and other waterfowl universally use capital for breeding, research and conservation efforts should shift from evaluating whether an income breeding strategy is used and focus on when and where necessary capital is acquired prior to clutch formation.




Janke, A. K., Anteau, M. J., Markl, N., & Stafford, J. D. (2015). Is income breeding an appropriate construct for waterfowl? Journal of Ornithology, 156(3), 755–762.

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