, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 388-394

Chick survival in relation to nest site: is the Antarctic petrel hiding from its predator?

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In birds, the characteristics of the nest site may affect reproductive success. We found that shelter is an important characteristic of the Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica) nests because shelter prevents chick predation. However, the benefit of shelter was countervailed by melt water which mainly entered well-sheltered nests. Chick survival was monitored until the chick was left unattended for the first time. Late-hatched chicks had a higher survival probability than early-hatched chicks, possibly because late hatchers swamp the predator, the south polar skua (Catharacta maccormicki). Poorly sheltered nests tended to be occupied by parents with low body mass and late-hatched eggs. The results suggest that both shelter per se and parental characteristics may explain the relationship between predation risk and shelter. We need experiments to study the influence of nest site on reproductive success, and we need to map the frequency of melt water as a cause of reproductive failure.