Behavioral experiments in a wild passerine cause short-term reductions in parental provisioning and nestling mass
VAN DONGEN,WOUTER F.D
Research on wild animals often involves the capture and temporary removal of individuals from their territory. Although the acute effects of such procedures are well understood in terms of stress hormone profiles, their effect on the behaviour of captured individuals after release is poorly known. Additionally, for socially-monogamous individuals captured whilst breeding, little is known regarding whether the remaining individual compensates for the temporary loss of its partner and whether offspring condition or survival ultimately decreases due to any reductions in parental provisioning. We investigated the influence of field-based experiments requiring temporary adult removal on adult provisioning behaviour and nestling mass in the thorn-tailed rayadito (Aphrastura spinicauda), a Chilean furnariid species with equal parental effort between sexes. During the absence of the removed individual, remaining individuals did not increase nestling provisioning rates while, upon their release, removed individuals did not return to nestling feeding for at least 38 minutes and typically much longer. This drastic reduction in combined parental provisioning negatively affected nestling mass, while average nestling mass increased during a control period, nestlings failed to gain weight during and subsequent to parental removal. Finally, our experiments did not affect fledging probability. Overall, our results indicate that the temporary removal of rayaditos from their territories can cause short-term reductions in parental provisioning and nestling weight, but is unlikely to lead to any long-term effects on nestling survival.