Weight change and the body reserves of female blue tits, Parus caeruleus, during the breeding season

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Abstract

A female blue tit lays a large clutch that is commonly heavier than her own body weight. Body reserves cannot provide for the entire clutch and little is known of the importance of these reserves during the breeding season. This study reports on weight changes in adult female blue tits during the breeding season, observed by the use of electronic balances. In addition, data from dissecting 67 adult female blue tits, at different stages of the breeding cycle, were used to investigate the changes in body weight. There was a rapid increase in body weight during a period of 4–5 days before the first egg was laid, which was explained mostly by the development of the oviduct and the production of an egg on the final day. Body weight remained constant during the laying period, before decreasing by approximately one gram after clutch completion, owing to the absence of an egg and the absorption of the oviduct. Body reserves increased during the day after clutch completion, were maintained throughout the incubation period and were mobilized during the first five days of the nestling period. Breeding female blue tits appear to deposit small body reserves to act as a short-term buffer against adverse conditions or to support the brooding phase.

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