Ardea
Official journal of the Netherlands Ornithologists' Union

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TemizyĆ¼rek T., Johannknecht M. & Korsten P. (2022) Incubation before clutch completion predicts incubation time and hatching asynchrony in the Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus. ARDEA 110 (2): 6-6
Hatching asynchrony is a frequent phenomenon in altricial birds and can lead to brood reduction due to sibling competition. There are a number of adaptive hypotheses to explain its occurrence, relating hatching asynchrony to sibling competition and timing of breeding. Incubation prior to clutch completion (early incubation) is the main cause of hatching asynchrony. We used temperature loggers inside the nests of breeding Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus to provide a detailed account of female incubation over most of the egg-laying period. We relate this early incubation to the time interval between clutch completion and hatching as well as hatching asynchrony. Our study shows the frequent occurrence of early incubation during the beginning of the laying period, with all females showing more early incubation towards clutch completion. At first, early incubation mostly occurs at night, but as egg laying progresses, it also occurs during the day. However, overall there was more nocturnal than diurnal early incubation. These results were obtained using two different methods for quantifying incubation from temperature profiles, which we compared and cross-validated in this study. Moreover, the amount of early incubation related negatively to the time between clutch completion and first hatching and positively to the extent of hatching asynchrony. While we did not directly investigate the mechanisms driving variation in early incubation, the exceptionally cold March/April period followed by a warm May in our study year may explain the comparatively great amounts of early incubation we observed. We hypothesise that spring temperatures may influence the amount of early incubation, with warmer springs resulting in more early incubation and consequently shorter times from clutch completion until first hatching as well as increased hatching asynchrony. Such a mechanism of adjustment of incubation time and hatching asynchrony may also be important for the adaptation of birds to climate change.


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