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2.We experimentally simulated wing gaps in breeding male pied flycatchers by plucking two primary feathers from both wings. We quantified the nest visitations of both parents, proportion of high-quality food brought to the nestlings and adults and nestlings condition. Differences in oxidative damage caused by a possible reduction in flight efficiency were measured in amounts of ROMs and OXY in the blood. We also measured how flight performance was affected with recordings of the male`s escape flight using high-speed cameras. Finally, we collected data on adult survival, clutch size and laying date in the following year.
3.“Plucked” males travelled a 5% shorter distance per wingbeat, showing that our treatment reduced flight performance. In line with this, “plucked” males visited their nests less often. Females of “plucked” males, however, visited the nest more often than controls, and fully compensated their partner's reduced visitation rate. As a result, there were no differences between treatments in food quality brought to the nest, adult or chick mass or number of successfully fledged chicks. Males did not differ in their oxidative damage or local survival to the following year. In contrast, females paired with plucked males tended to return less often to breed in the next year in comparison to controls, but this difference was not significant. For the birds that did return, there were no effects on breeding.
4.Our results reveal that wing gaps in male pied flycatchers reduce their flight performance, but when it occurs during breeding they prioritise their future reproduction by reducing parental care. As a result, there is no apparent detriment to their condition during breeding. Because non-moulting females are able to compensate their partner's reduced care, there is also no immediate cost to the offspring, but females may pay the cost suffering from a reduced survival.
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Data from: Simulated moult reduces flight performance but overlap with breeding does not affect breeding success in a long-distance migrant
Mizumo Tomotani, B. (Creator), Muijres, F. (Creator), Koelman, J. (Creator), Casagrande, S. (Creator) & Visser, M. E. (Creator), NIOO-KNAW, 22 Aug 2017