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The Influence of the Pair-Bond and Age on the Breeding Biology of the Kittiwake Gull Rissa tridactyla

J. C. Coulson
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Jun., 1966), pp. 269-279
DOI: 10.2307/2394
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2394
Page Count: 11
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Influence of the Pair-Bond and Age on the Breeding Biology of the Kittiwake Gull Rissa tridactyla
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Abstract

1. The influence of changes in mate on the breeding biology of female kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) has been investigated over a 12-year period. 2. About 64% of the birds retained their mate from the previous breeding season, but older birds tended to change their mates less frequently than young birds. Of the birds which changed their mate, a third changed because their partner from the previous breeding season had died, but the mates of the remaining two-thirds were still present in the colony. 3. There was a strong tendency for birds to choose a mate of the same age, but this was less pronounced in older birds where the females more frequently paired with a younger male. 4. A change of mate was three times more likely if the pair had failed to hatch their eggs in the previous breeding season. 5. The age of the female had a pronounced effect upon the breeding biology, influencing both clutch size and breeding success. The relative age of the male also influenced the date of egg laying in the female. 6. A female which retained her mate from the previous breeding season bred earlier, laid more eggs and had a greater breeding success than one which had paired with a new male. Further, a female which retained the mate from the previous breeding season showed more consistency in time of egg laying. 7. Female kittiwakes which retained the mate of a previous breeding season tended to breed earlier as they gained in breeding experience. Birds breeding with a mate for the first time bred at the same time irrespective of their previous breeding experience. 8. The depressive effect on the breeding biology induced by the change of mate was apparent for at least two breeding seasons after the change took place, the effect being less pronounced in the second year. 9. It is suggested that there is a marked selective value in retaining the same mate from one breeding season to the next, but that in incompatible pairs (which fail to hatch their eggs) their is more advantage in changing mates as by so doing they are more likely to breed successfully.

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