Trade-offs in nest site selection in coastal populations of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus

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Abstract

In coastal populations of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in southwestern Sweden, arable fields predominated as foraging habitat before laying. Females caught more large prey items on arable fields and shores than on pastures. Close to egg laying, females foraged mainly near their future nest sites. Arable land and pastures were used to a similar extent for nesting. We found no difference in nest predation between habitats. Egg volume varied among females and was correlated with wing-length, body mass and condition. Mean egg volume also was positively correlated with feeding time on arable land before laying. Pairs nesting on arable fields therefore generally produced larger eggs than those on pastures. The distances between nests and chick foraging areas, however, were significantly longer for birds nesting on arable land than for those on pastures. Moreover, in 2 of 3 years, the proportion of hatched chicks that survived until fledging was negatively correlated with this distance. There was no difference in chick survival between broods hatched on arable fields and pastures. We suggest that nest site selection and offspring production involve a trade-off between the benefits of nesting close to rich feeding grounds for adults and the costs of moving long distances between nest sites and chick-rearing areas.

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