The Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia has been well studied with respect to reproductive biology at low-altitude in Europe, but not at high altitudes. This study presents the information on a Rock Sparrow population breeding in an alpine meadow at 3400 m altitude and compares the life history traits with their lower-altitude counterparts studied in Europe. The birds are resident all year round in this area. Nests of Rock Sparrows tended to cluster and were mainly located in abandoned burrows of the Ground Tit Parus humilis. Fairs were monogamous and territorial behaviors were absent, which differed from European populations, where Rock Sparrows show a series of mating systems and display strong territoriality around the nest site. Egg-laying took place between late May and late June, with every pair making a single nesting attempt. Clutch size averaged 5.1 ± 0.9, incubation undertaken by female only lasted 12.7 ± 0.8 days, and young in the nest were fed by both parents for 19.9 ± 0.7 days. Breeding success, measured as the proportion of nests with at least one fledgling, was 89%. Compared to their lower-altitude populations studied in Europe, the high-altitude Rock Sparrows start breeding later, experience a shorter breeding season, produce fewer but bigger eggs, and have a longer nestling period. Such a life history strategy that allows birds to allocate more energy into individual offspring should be adaptive to the harsh high-altitude conditions.
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Vol. 47 • No. 1