The function of habitat change during brood-rearing in the precocial Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus
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- Kosztolányi, A., Székely, T. & Cuthill, I.C. acta ethol (2007) 10: 73. doi:10.1007/s10211-007-0032-z
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Food availability is often variable during the breeding season. Parents with nonmobile, altricial young have no choice but to accept changes in local food availability, whereas in precocial animals, the parents may lead their young away from poor sites to areas that have rich resources and/or are safe from predators. We investigated the latter hypotheses in the Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus, a precocial shorebird that raises its young in two habitats: on lakeshore and in saltmarsh. Parents move with their broods from saltmarsh to lakeshore, especially late in the breeding season, and we hypothesized that lakeshores provide more food than the saltmarsh. Consistent with our hypotheses, plover chicks grew faster on the shore, and the difference in growth rates between the two habitats was amplified later in the breeding season. In addition, brood survival was higher on lakeshore than in saltmarsh and decreased with hatching date. Taken together, our results suggest that Kentish plover parents increase their reproductive success by switching brood-rearing habitats strategically.