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Time spent with parents varies with early-life condition, but does not predict survival or sociality of juvenile hihi

Hihi Male Feeding Chick

Published in: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

Authors: Victoria R. Franks, Mhairi McCready, James L. Savage and Rose Thorogood

Abstract:

Many young birds die soon after fledging, as they lack the skills to find food and avoid predation. Post-fledging parental care is assumed to assist acquisition of these vital skills. However, we still lack empirical examples examining the length of time fledglings spend with parents, how they associate during this critical time, or whether such variation in the fledgling dependency period has consequences for the survival and behaviour of young as they navigate their first year of independent life. Here, we make use of observations and radio frequency identity (RFID) logs of visits to supplementary feeding stations to investigate how condition of fledgling hihi (stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta), a New Zealand passerine, predicts dispersal behaviour and tendency to follow parents during their 2 week post-fledging dependence period. We find that thinner fledglings followed their parents more closely in time when visiting feeding stations, compared to fatter siblings (all following ranged from 3s to 10min). However, broods in poorer condition tended to disperse from the natal territory up to 6.5 days earlier than broods of fatter fledglings (all dispersed within 14 days). Our results did not find that sociality or survival during the first year of life differed depending on variation in fledgling behaviour; neither following parents closely nor dispersing later predicted each bird’s number of associates (degree), or survival over winter. These results suggest that fledglings may be able to compensate for early differences in condition with behaviour, either during the post-fledging dependence period or when independent.

You can access the paper here.

Written by Victoria Franks

I began working with hihi in 2014, when I started my PhD at the
University of Cambridge and Zoological Society of London (supervised by
Dr Rose Thorogood and Dr John Ewen). I am interested in how young hihi
use social relationships when learning new behaviours, and how this may
be important for conservation, when translocating groups to new sites.
To assist this research, I am using Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags as a new monitoring
system in the hihi population on Tiritiri Matangi Island.

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