Effects of food supplementation on female nest attentiveness and incubation mate feeding in two sympatric wren species

Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) Science Article 2


We examined effects of incubation mate feeding on female incubation behavior and correlates of fitness by providing female Bewick’s Wrens (Thryomanes bewickii) and House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) with food supplements. Males of these species vary in their rates of feeding; Bewick’s Wrens feed their incubating mates frequently, whereas House Wrens seldom engage in this behavior. Average length of incubation bout and nest attentiveness (proportion of time spent on the nest) were higher for supplemented female Bewick’s Wrens and House Wrens compared to controls. Furthermore, mates of supplemented Bewick’s Wrens provisioned females at lower rates than controls, and their rate of feeding was inversely correlated with ambient temperature. Incubation length and hatching success were not significantly different between treatments for either species. These results suggest that incubation mate feeding can increase female nest attentiveness and perhaps enhance fitness of both males and females. In House Wrens, potential tradeoffs between the benefits of parental care and opportunities to obtain additional mates may explain why males rarely feed incubating females

AARON T. PEARSE, JOHN F. CAVITT, AND JACK F. CULLY, JR, Wilson Bulletin, 116(1), 2004, pp. 23-30

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