Egg size, composition and offspring quality in some Alcidae (Aves: Charadriiformes)



The composition of fresh and fully developed (pipping) eggs of four alcids, Razorbill, Common guillemot, Brünnich's guillemot and Atlantic puffin was examined. There were no differences in egg composition between the semi-precocial Atlantic puffin and the three species with “intermediate” developmental patterns. The absolute amount of yolk increased with egg size in fresh eggs, and the relative amount remained constant with egg size for Common guillemot and Razorbill, but decreased in the Atlantic puffin. In fully developed eggs chick weight and egg weight were closely correlated, and this was due mainly to larger eggs producing chicks with larger yolk reserves. Under some conditions chicks from larger eggs do better than those from smaller eggs. Several factors influence egg size; a comparison of first and replacement eggs laid by the same females showed that a maternal effect accounted for 60–90% of the variance in egg-size and that laying date accounted for most of the remaining variance.