Journal of Ethology

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 29-34

First online:

Post-fledging brood and care division in the roseate tern (Sterna dougallii)

  • Maggie J. WatsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of MassachusettsSchool of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Charles Sturt University Email author 
  • , Jeffrey A. SpendelowAffiliated withUSGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
  • , Jeremy J. HatchAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Massachusetts

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Extended post-fledging parental care is an important aspect of parental care in birds, although little studied due to logistic difficulties. Commonly, the brood is split physically (brood division) and/or preferential care is given to a subset of the brood by one parent or the other (care division). Among gulls and tern (Laridae), males and females generally share parental activities during the pre-fledging period, but the allocation of parental care after fledging is little documented. This study examined the behaviour of male and female roseate terns (Sterna dougallii) during the late chick-rearing and early post-fledging periods, and in particular the amount of feeds and the time spent in attendance given to individual chicks/fledglings. Pre-fledging parental care was biparental in all cases. Post-fledging parental care was dependent on the number of fledglings in the brood. Males and females continued biparental care in clutches with one surviving fledgling, while in two-fledgling clutches, males fed the A-fledgling while females fed the B-fledgling. Overall, there was no difference in attendance, only in feeds. This division of care may be influenced by the male only being certain of the paternity of the A-chick but not by chick sex.


Brood division Care division Parental care Post-fledging Roseate tern Sterna dougallii