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Incubation Feeding and Nest Attentiveness in a Socially Monogamous Songbird: Role of Feather Colouration, Territory Quality and Ambient Environment


Beata Matysioková, Department of Zoology and Laboratory of Ornithology, Palacký University, Tř. Svobody 26, 77146 Olomouc, Czech Republic.


Parental investment and environmental conditions determine reproductive success in wild-ranging animals. Parental effort during incubation, and consequently factors driving it, has profound consequences for reproductive success in birds. The female nutrition hypothesis states that high male feeding enables the incubating female to spend more time on eggs, which can lead to higher hatching success. Moreover, both male and female parental investment during incubation might be signalled by plumage colouration. To test these hypotheses, we investigated relationships between male and female incubation behaviour and carotenoid and melanin-based plumage colouration, territory quality and ambient temperature in the Great Tit Parus major. We also studied the effect of female incubation behaviour on hatching success. Intensity of male incubation feeding increased with lower temperatures and was higher in territories with more food supply, but only in poor years with low overall food supply. Female nest attentiveness increased with lower temperatures. Plumage colouration did not predict incubation behaviour of either parent. Thus, incubation behaviour of both parents was related mainly to environmental conditions. Moreover, there was no relationship between male incubation feeding, female nest attentiveness and hatching success. Consequently, our data were not consistent with the female nutrition hypothesis.

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