In numerous avian species, egg size is correlated to female body condition, hatchling size and nestling growth. Recent demography studies of Interior Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) suggest a migratory divide across the Great Lakes; western populations winter in the Gulf of Mexico region of the southeastern United States (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) with extensive catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) aquaculture, and eastern populations winter in Florida, where catfish aquaculture is not pervasive. If Double-crested Cormorants have improved their overall body condition through catfish exploitation, then egg and chick sizes should also be affected. Three breeding areas in Ontario (east, central, and west) were selected for empirical measures of size variation. During the breeding seasons of 2006 and 2007, egg, naked young, fledgling, and adult morphometric data were collected. Eggs in eastern areas (volume = 465.8 ± 3.9 cm³) were on average larger than eggs in central (volume = 458.1 ± 3.5 cm³) and western (volume = 451.7 ± 3.5 cm³) areas. However, chicks in eastern areas (culmen = 54.9 ± 0.6 mm) were smaller than chicks in central (culmen = 57.6 ± 0.4 mm) and western (culmen = 59.3 ± 0.3 mm) areas, not only at hatching, but throughout development and fledging. A comprehensive Double-crested Cormorant morphometric gradient that may suggest a potential reproductive advantage for birds exploiting aquaculture facilities is presented.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3