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Brood reduction in the Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena

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Brood reduction in Red-necked Grebes Podiceps grisegena breeding on fish ponds in south-eastern Poland occurred either through the desertion of the last-laid eggs after partial hatching of the clutch and/or the selective starvation of the smallest chicks. Abandonment of unhatched eggs was not influenced by the number of young already hatched or by the breeding date, but it was more likely in larger clutches and in families suffering chick starvation. Chicks from the largest broods had a higher probability of survival until fledging than those from single-chick broods. Larger chicks obtained food more successfully through better positioning during food delivery. In families that did not suffer brood reduction, chicks were better provisioned with food than in reduced broods. Although allocation of food among chicks in reduced broods was more skewed to the disadvantage of the younger siblings, dominant chicks obtained less food prior to brood reduction than dominant siblings in unreduced broods. Sibling aggression did not differ between unreduced and reduced broods before death of the weakest chicks. Post-laying adjustment of the number of offspring to prevailing feeding conditions occurred at two stages: by parental manipulation of the number of hatched eggs at the time when parents and chicks leave the nest and by competition between chicks. It is suggested that late egg desertion may be an adaptive mechanism of brood-size adjustment, when elimination of the weakest chicks through sibling competition is not very efficient.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-04-01

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