Variation in offspring quality with cavity orientation in the great tit

Goodenough, Anne E ORCID: 0000-0002-7662-6670, Hart, Adam G ORCID: 0000-0002-4795-9986 and Elliot, S L (2008) Variation in offspring quality with cavity orientation in the great tit. Ethology Ecology and Evolution, 20 (4). pp. 375-389. doi:10.1080/08927014.2008.9522518

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In birds, the quality of offspring immediately prior to fledging is an important determinant of survival and fecundity. Factors that alter offspring quality at fledging may thus be expected to become strong nest-site selection pressures. However, this fitness component is often overlooked when parental nest-site selection and breeding success are considered. Previous research has found that the frequency of nestbox occupations by great tits Parus major is lower for boxes facing south-southwest than for boxes facing other directions although, curiously, there is no corresponding difference in breeding success (mean number of young to fledge). In this study, we used measures of offspring quality to determine whether there was any association with nestbox orientation that might explain the apparent avoidance of boxes facing south-southwest. Offspring quality correlated with orientation using several condition-related biometrics: (1) weight, (2) wing length, and (3) tarsus length. Fluctuating asymmetry of a bilateral trait (tarsus length) also correlated with orientation. Further analysis using Generalised Linear Mixed Modelling revealed that chicks from boxes facing south-southwest were of significantly lower quality (lighter, smaller and more asymmetrical) than chicks from boxes facing other directions. Crucially, the orientation of nestbox-avoidance and the orientation associated with lowest offspring quality were the same (southsouthwest). The correlation between nestbox avoidance patterns and offspring quality provides a potential evolutionary ecological explanation for the behavioural aversion of adults to nesting in boxes facing south-southwest. This highlights the importance of quantifying offspring quality, in addition to quantity, in studies of parental productivity and nest-site selection across taxa.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: breeding success, fluctuating asymmetry, great tit, nest-site selection, offspring quality, Parus major
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Anne Goodenough
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2016 14:18
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:59

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