Parental provisioning behaviour in a flock-living passerine, the Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus

Abstract

The amount of food delivered by parents to their chicks is affected by various life history traits as well as environmental and social factors, and this investment ultimately determines the current and future fitness of parents and their offspring. We studied parental provisioning behaviour in the Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus, a species with an unusual social system that is characterised by flock-living, weak territoriality and variable nesting dispersion. Parental provisioning rate had a positive influence on chick mass gain, suggesting that provisioning rate is an effective measure of parental investment in this species. Males and females fed nestlings at approximately the same rate, and no other carers were observed at nests. Parents coordinated provisioning rates so that they mostly fed chicks synchronously. However, the extent to which parents coordinated provisioning was associated with their social environment, synchrony being positively related to local breeding density and negatively to nearest neighbour distance. The rate at which parents provisioned nestlings showed the same relationships with social measures, being greatest at higher density and when neighbours were closer. Visit rate was also related to chick age, but not to brood size, brood sex ratio, extra pair paternity, laying date, temperature, parents’ body characters, time of day or year. We conclude that a breeding pairs’ social environment plays an important role in determining parental investment, probably through its effects on the opportunities that parents have for foraging with conspecifics.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Andrew MacColl, Stuart Sharp, Terry Burke and two anonymous referees for their valuable comments on the manuscript and Shinichi Nakagawa for statistical advice. We also thank Byoung-Soon Jang, Jeong-Chil Yoo, Myon-Sik Kim and Yun-Kyoung Lee for their invaluable help in the field, Chun-Geun Kim who kindly provided accommodation during fieldwork and many residents in the study area for kindly allowing us to observe birds on their property. Kind help by Andy Krupa, Gavin Hinten, Michelle Simeoni and Deborah Dawson was crucial for the genotyping and molecular sexing of the birds. Bird ringing and blood sampling were conducted under permits issued by Yangpyeong-gun county, and this work was partly funded by the University of Sheffield, for which we are most grateful.

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Correspondence to Jin-Won Lee.

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Communicated by T. Friedl.

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Lee, JW., Kim, HY. & Hatchwell, B.J. Parental provisioning behaviour in a flock-living passerine, the Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus . J Ornithol 151, 483–490 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-009-0484-1

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Keywords

  • Breeding density
  • Group foraging
  • Paradoxornis webbianus
  • Provisioning rate
  • Vinous-throated Parrotbill