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Behavioral and physiological responses to male handicap in chick-rearing black-legged kittiwakes

January 1, 2011

Parental investment entails a trade-off between the benefits of effort in current offspring and the costs to future reproduction. Long-lived species are predicted to be reluctant to increase parental effort to avoid affecting their survival. We tested this hypothesis in black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla by clipping flight feathers of experimental males at the beginning of the chick-rearing period. We analyzed the consequences of this handicap on feeding and attendance behavior, body condition, integument coloration, and circulating levels of corticosterone and prolactin in handicapped males and their mates in comparison to unmanipulated controls. Chicks in both groups were compared in terms of aggressive behavior, growth, and mortality. Handicapped males lost more mass, had less bright integuments, and attended the nest less often than controls. Nevertheless, they fed their chicks at the same rate and had similar corticosterone and prolactin levels. Compared with control females, females mated with handicapped males showed a lower provisioning rate and higher nest attendance in the first days after manipulation. Their lower feeding rate probably triggered the increased sibling aggression and mortality observed in experimental broods. Our findings suggest that experimental females adaptively adjusted their effort to their mate's perceived quality or that their provisioning was constrained by their higher nest attendance. Overall, our results suggest that kittiwake males can decrease their condition for the sake of their chicks, which seems to contradict the hypothesis that kittiwakes should be reluctant to increase parental effort to avoid affecting their survival.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Behavioral and physiological responses to male handicap in chick-rearing black-legged kittiwakes
DOI 10.1093/beheco/arr149
Authors S. Leclaire, V. Bourret, R.H. Wagner, Scott A. Hatch, F. Helfenstein, O. Chastel, E. Danchin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Behavioral Ecology
Series Number
Index ID 70034539
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB

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