Devotion to Rearing Chicks can Come at a Cost for Migratory Birds

Birds that have to work harder during breeding season will feel the effects of their exertions the following year, according to research by Oxford University scientists.

A new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology found that migratory seabirds suffered negative repercussions when they had to spend more time rearing chicks, including decreased breeding success when they returned to the colony the following spring.

The study artificially altered the length of the chick-rearing period for pairs of Manx shearwaters, giving new insights into the consequences for birds whose reproductive phase doesn’t go to plan. All parent pairs involved in the study cared for their foster chicks until they were fully reared — often at their own expense.

Lead author Dr Annette Fayet, of the Oxford Navigation Group in the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘The results of this study provide evidence for carry-over effects on the subsequent migratory, wintering and breeding behaviour of birds.’

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