In alcids, growth rate and hatching date of chicks appear to affect fledging age and mass. Underlying mechanisms are hypothesized to be (1) critical wing length at fledging for postfledging survival, (2) synchronization of fledging to dilute predation risk, and (3) variable parental provisioning according to timing of breeding. To elucidate the effects of growth rate and hatching date on fledging age and mass, and to test those mechanistic hypotheses, we measured chick growth and fledging periods in Rhinoceros Auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata) at Teuri Island from 1995 to 2000. The multiple-linear regression analysis showed that intrayear variations of fledging age and mass were explained by growth rate or hatching date in five out of six years. Faster-growing chicks fledged younger and heavier, and earlier-hatched chicks fledged older and heavier. Consequently, no apparent correlation between fledging age and mass was observed in five out of six years. Analysis of interyear variation showed a negative correlation between fledging age and mass, which indicates that growth rates rather than hatching dates had a major effect. Wing length at fledging was independent of growth in mass. More than 80% of chicks fledged when they attained a narrow range of wing length (130–150 mm), presumably because they remained in their nests until they attained the critical wing length. In five out of six years, the chicks did not synchronize timing of fledging relative to timing of hatching. Later-hatched chicks attained lighter peak masses and at younger ages, which may indicate that their parents decreased provisioning rates when the chicks were still young. We suggest that (1) critical wing length at fledging and (2) variable parental provisioning according to timing of breeding could be underlying mechanisms determining these relationships between fledging age and mass.
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Vol. 121 • No. 2