, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 99-112
Date: 06 Mar 2007

Parental sex roles of Malaysian plovers during territory acquisition, incubation and chick-rearing

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Shorebirds show high variability in parental care strategies among species, populations, and environments. Research on shorebird parental sex roles can help to understand the selective pressures that shape avian breeding strategies. Although several studies have examined parental care strategies in holarctic shorebirds, very little research has been conducted in the tropics. Here we examined parental sex roles during territorial defence, incubation, and chick-rearing in Malaysian plovers Charadrius peronii in the Gulf of Thailand. The costs and gains of particular parental behaviour may vary between the sexes and can be affected differently by environmental factors and chick age. Thus we also examined how temperature, prey availability, chick or embryo age, and time of day affected parental sex roles. Males spent more time defending territories and were further away from chicks whereas females spent more time incubating eggs. Both adults contributed to chick defence during disturbances throughout the entire chick-rearing period. Total nest attendance (sum of both sexes) was affected by the modelled temperature of an unincubated egg. Prey availability, embryo age, and time of day had no effect on total nest attendance. Males adjusted incubation effort in response to temperature only at high temperatures (>36°C) whereas females adjusted nest attendance at high and low temperatures. Chick age had no effect on the proportion of time adults spent defending territories or responding to disturbance. Pairs were more likely to fledge chicks if both the male and female spent more time defending territories. For Malaysian plovers, high cooperation between the sexes during parental care may help to achieve high quality breeding territories, maintain body conditions during hot days, protect offspring from predators and attacking conspecifics, and contribute to high lifetime reproductive success.