Food abundance, weather, and female body condition are believed to influence the timing of breeding and reproductive performance of birds. We simultaneously studied the effects of weather and food abundance on reproduction in Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) while experimentally reducing female condition and foraging efficiency by clipping some flight feathers prior to egg laying. Control females laid larger clutches earlier in the season, had longer incubation periods, and raised heavier nestlings than experimental females. Fledging success did not differ after controlling for laying date and brood size. Greater insect abundance was associated with laying earlier in the season, heavier eggs, and shorter incubation periods. Most likely, feather-clipping affected clutch size through reduced foraging efficiency, which delayed the date of laying, rather than through loss of body condition. This outcome is consistent with the idea that Tree Swallows are “income” breeders that base their timing of reproduction on short-term rates of food intake near the time of breeding. Contrary to studies of other species, Tree Swallows do not appear to time their laying so that hatching will coincide with seasonal peaks in food supply. Rather, they appear to breed when temperature and food abundance are sufficient to allow females of a given body condition to initiate egg laying.
Efectos de la Abundancia de Alimento, del Clima y de la Condición de las Hembras sobre la Reproducción en Tachycineta bicolor