Eggs of known fresh weight were removed from Great Tit nests shortly before hatching and artificially incubated. Four to eight chicks were returned to each nest-box on their hatching day and reared by foster parents. The effect of egg weight on subsequent growth was studied for 81 nestlings (13 broods), 50 of them (8 broods) up to the 17th day.
Hatching success of 275 eggs in the incubator was 67·6% and was not correlated with egg weight.
Egg weight had a significant effect on nestling weight up to the 14th day. Young hatched from lighter eggs grew more slowly at the beginning, but recovered before fledging. Mortality after fledging seemed not to be influenced by egg weight.
Maximum weight (mean 19 g) was attained between the 12th and the 17th day and was positively correlated with egg weight.
The effect of brood-size (small in the experiments) on growth increased significantly with age. The range of egg weight for a nest had a significant effect on growth at the beginning, but a small and not significant effect after the 10th day.
The growth of each brood on any particular day was expressed as a deviation from mean growth. These growth deviations, plotted against date, were similar in all nests and were not correlated with any weather data.
The fledging success of 260 early broods was independent of egg weight, but it was positively correlated with egg weight in 78 late broods (data from 1965–71).
The ecological importance of egg weight at different times of the breeding season is discussed.