The effect of hatching date on parental care, chick growth, and chick mortality in the chinstrap penguin Pygoscelis antarctica


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We studied the effect of hatching date on breeding performance (chick growth and mortality) and phenology (creching and fledging ages) of the chinstrap penguin during three years. The year affected every variable considered, probably due to pack-ice persistence and food availability differences between years. Hatching date had slight or no effect on mortality and early growth, but was negatively correlated with creching age, which, in turn, was positively related to final size. The decision to leave the chicks unguarded does not seem to be based on the condition of the chicks, but on that of adults. Fledging age was negatively correlated with hatching date, and this effect was more marked in the year with poor growth performance. Given the short time available for breeding in Antarctica, there must be conflicting pressures between investing in feeding chicks and advancing the period of premoult resource storage, this explaining the strong relationship between hatching dates and subsequent phenological events (creching and fledging). In this kind of study, it may be important to remove the effect of inter-year variation before assessing the possible effects of other variables.