HOW MANY BASKETS? CLUTCH SIZES THAT MAXIMIZE ANNUAL FECUNDITY OF MULTIPLE-BROODED BIRDS

  • Farnsworth G
  • Simons T
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Abstract

—We developed deterministic models on the basis of nest survival rates and renesting behavior capable of predicting annual fecundity in birds. The models calculate probabilities of fledging from one to four nests within a discrete breeding season. We used those models to address theoretical issues related to clutch size. In general, birds require at least one day to lay an egg, and many species delay incubation until their entire clutch is laid. Because it takes longer to complete a larger clutch, and fewer such clutches can fit into a limited breeding season, there exists a clutch size for which annual fecundity is maximized. We asked, for a given amount of reproductive effort (i.e. a set number of eggs), does the age-old maxim ''don't put all your eggs in one basket'' apply? If so, in how many ''baskets'' should a nesting bird place its eggs? The answer depends on both likelihood of nest pre-dation and length of the breeding season. Those results are consistent with the observed increase in clutch size with latitude (shorter breeding season length) and larger clutch sizes characteristic of cavity-nesting species (with higher nest survival rates). The models also pre-dict that the size of replacement clutches should decrease as the breeding season progresses, and that intraseasonal decline in clutch size should be more pronounced when the breeding season is short.

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Authors

  • George L Farnsworth

  • Theodore R Simons

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