Sex-biased nestling mortality in the Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus


  • Beatriz Arroyo

Beatriz Arroyo, Centre of Ecology and Hydrology- Banchory, Hill of Brathens, Aberdeenshire, AB31 4BW, Scotland, u.k. E-mail:


I evaluate causes and patterns of nestling mortality in a sexually dimorphic species, the Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus, and their relationship with sex and condition. Starvation was apparently the main reason for nestling death. Condition of birds that died was lower than those that survived. Both probability of nestling death and the proportion of nestlings that died within a brood increased with the number of hatched nestlings in a brood, and with increasing hatching date. For the nestlings that died after being sexed, when controlling for brood effects, probability of death was significantly related to nestling sex, with smaller males having a higher probability of dying. The probability of nestling death if hatched late in the season was relatively greater for males than for females. There was also a significant interaction between sex and hatching date on nestling condition: the decline in condition if hatched late in the season was steeper for males than for females. Males did not have a higher probability of death when having more sisters: neither the probability of brood reduction nor the proportion of nestlings that died were significantly related to within-brood sex ratio. Results suggest that mortality may partly result from sibling competition: females, being the larger sex, might be better able to compete for food within a brood than their male siblings. Additionally, smaller males may be less able to recover from periods of declining body weight.