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Burrow and mate fidelity in the Little Penguin Eudyptula minor at Lion Island, New South Wales, Australia

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Although both mate and nest fidelity are thought to exist in Little Penguins Eudyptula minor, few studies have statistically assessed the relationship between both types of fidelity and breeding success. Observations of the breeding biology of the Little Penguin were carried out between 1990 and 1998 at Lion Island, New South Wales, Australia. The existence of fidelity and the effect of breeding success on subsequent fidelity were assessed for this population. Strong evidence for the existence of nest and mate fidelity was found with high rates of return to the same burrow and mate being recorded for both sexes. For all years of the study, the average number of female and male birds faithful to their nest was 76 and 79%, respectively, with only two noted cases of intraseasonal burrow swapping. The rate of divorce varied widely between years, with a range of 0–40%. A marginal association of a log linear model showed a highly significant relationship (P < 0.001) between success of a clutch in one year and fidelity to a mate in the following year. Consequently, parents successfully raising a fledgling in one year were more likely to reunite in the following year than were pairs that attempted unsuccessfully to breed. Pairs failing to fledge chicks were much more likely to separate owing to the absence of one parent in the following year. We were unable to detect any association between breeding success in one year and subsequent change of nest in the next.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-10-01

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