Rates and consequences of relaying in Cassin's auklets Ptychoramphus aleuticus and rhinoceros auklets Cerorhinca monocerata breeding in a seasonal environment


  • J. Mark Hipfner,

  • Kristin Charleton,

  • W. Eric Davies

J. M. Hipfner (correspondence), K. Charleton and W. E. Davies, Centre for Wildlife Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada, and Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific Wildlife Research Centre, RR#1 5421 Robertson Road, Delta, British Columbia, V4K 3N2, Canada. E-mail: mark.hipfner@ec.gc.ca


We removed first eggs from early-laying females to measure rates and consequences of relaying in Cassin's auklets Ptychoramphus aleuticus and rhinoceros auklets Cerorhinca monocerata at Triangle Island, British Columbia, Canada. Based on egg size and composition, the investment that Cassin's auklets made in first eggs was very close to that predicted from adult body mass, whereas rhinoceros auklets invested more. In both species, a high percentage of females relaid (90% of Cassin's and 87% of rhinoceros auklets). Breeding success declined weakly with later laying among control Cassin's auklet pairs, but pairs that we induced to relay bred more successfully than naturally late pairs, and similar to values predicted from laying dates of their first eggs. Their chicks also fledged heavier and younger than late control chicks, and similar to values in early control chicks, but followed the population-wide seasonal decline in wing length at fledging. Nestling diets were dominated by Neocalanus copepods until late in the season, a sign that feeding conditions remained favourable until late. In contrast, rhinoceros auklet pairs induced to relay followed the population-wide seasonal decline in breeding success, which was driven by a decline in hatching success. Pacific sandlance Ammodytes hexapterus, thought to be a preferred prey species, virtually disappeared from nestling diets in mid-to-late season, yet there was no seasonal decline in fledging mass. However, chicks from replacement eggs followed the declines among control chicks in both age and wing length at fledging. Despite the female having produced a replacement egg, and despite delayed breeding, there appeared to be little immediate consequence associated with relaying for Cassin's auklets, except for a tendency for their chicks to fledge with short wings. Consequences were more marked in rhinoceros auklets (greatly reduced hatching success, and having their chicks fledge with short wings), and this may have been due to the large investment made in eggs, and/or to delayed breeding. Results of this study show that attributes of Cassin's and rhinoceros auklets that lay at different times in the season can be important in driving seasonal declines in breeding performance, as found in studies on other Alcidae. They also show how decisions taken during the egg stage can have variable yet potentially important implications for fitness, even in relatively long-lived species that lay single-egg clutches.