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Biol Lett. 2009 Apr 23;5(2):176-8. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0631. Epub 2009 Jan 6.

Indirect cues of nest predation risk and avian reproductive decisions.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, Jyväskylä 40014, Finland.


Current life-history theory predicts that increased mortality at early stages of life leads to reduced initial investment (e.g. clutch size) but increased subsequent investment during the reproduction attempt. In a field experiment, migratory pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca perceived differences in mammalian nest predation risk and altered their reproductive strategies in two respects. First, birds avoided nest sites manipulated to reflect the presence of a predator. Second, birds breeding in risky areas nested 4 days earlier and laid 10 per cent larger clutches than those in safe areas, a result that runs counter to the prevailing life-history paradigm. We suggest that the overwhelming importance of nest predation to individual fitness reduces the value of collecting other information on habitat features leading to expedited onset of nesting, and, consequently, to larger clutch size.

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