Shared or Unshared Parental Care in Overwintering Brent Geese (Branta bernicla hrota)


E. Tinkler, School of Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Queen's University Belfast, Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK. E-mail:


We examine brood size effects on the behaviour of wintering parent and juvenile brent geese (Branta bernicla hrota) to test predictions of shared and unshared parental care models. The behaviour of both parents and offspring appear to be influenced by declining food availability over the winter. Parental vigilance increased with brood size and may be explained by vigilance having functions in addition to antipredator behaviour where the benefits are shared among the brood. There was no increase in parental aggression with brood size and this does not fit the prediction of shared care. Nevertheless, large families are able to monopolize better feeding areas compared with smaller families and large families static feed more but walk feed less than do small families, the former apparently being the preferred mode. The presence of additional young, rather than increasing the amount of parental aggression, seems to enhance the family's competitive ability. Because parents with large broods benefit from enhanced access to resources there is likely to be no additional significant cost in the parental care of larger broods (sensuTrivers 1972).