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A physiological basis for colony desertion by Red-billed queleas (Quelea quelea)



A breeding colony of Red-billed queleas, established in N.E. Nigeria under poor feeding conditions occasioned by drought, was abandoned after the eggs had been laid. Inadequate energy intake caused males to leave before completing the nests. This resulted in thousands of eggs being laid through bottomless nests onto the ground. The females left progressively as they completed their clutches; below normal protein- and fat-reserves probably combined to induce abandonment. Some individuals, predominantly females, died on the last night of occupation. Death apparently resulted from an adverse nutritional balance at a crucial stage in the laying sequence. The main value of the fat reserves in females beginning to lay appears to be in allowing maximal foraging “for protein”.

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