Ryser, S., N. Guillod, C. Bottini, R. Arlettaz & A. Jacot (2016)

Sex-specific food provisioning patterns by parents in the asynchronously hatching European hoopoe.

Further information

Anim. Behav. 117: 15–20



Hatching asynchrony is common among bird species. It results from starting incubation before clutch completion and is often accompanied by brood reduction, an adaptive strategy of the parents to selectively starve the younger chicks in times of food scarcity. The different developmental stages of nestlings are expected to affect their competitive abilities, their hunger state and thereby parental food allocation patterns. Here we used the combination of a correlative and an experimental field study to investigate sex-specific feeding patterns in the hoopoe, Upupa epops, in relation to a chick's rank and hunger state. Male parents showed a strong bias in their feeding pattern towards larger chicks, while females' feeding pattern was significantly more even. Only females were responsive to experimentally altered chicks' hunger state, especially so with small chicks at the lower end of the size hierarchy. This differential food allocation pattern mainly resulted from females mostly entering the nestbox to feed the chicks, while males more often delivered prey from the nestbox entrance hole without entering the cavity. Hence, when entering the nestbox, females can exert some parental control over food allocation, whereas competition among chicks to access the entrance hole mainly rules food allocation when the parents feed from the nestbox entrance hole. Similar sex-specific feeding patterns might be widespread in cavity breeders and it remains to be investigated to what extent variation in these male and female feeding patterns can affect nestling mortality and ultimately breeding success.
keywords: brood reduction, hatching asynchrony, hoopoe, prey size, sex-specific feeding pattern