The role of helpers in feeding chicks in cooperatively breeding green (red-billed) woodhoopoes
Observations were made of ten green (red-billed) woodhoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus flocks during the breeding season in order to quantify the relationship between flock size and the amount of food delivered to chicks. The study period was kept short specifically to minimize the effects of environmental stochasticity. Neither woodhoopoe feeding visit rates nor the total amount of food brought to chicks increased with flock size. Although nonbreeders did not increase the net rate of food provisioning to chicks, they reduced parental input in chick rearing, and hence energy expenditure by the breeding pair. However, over an 8-year study period, which includes data for 144 flock years, this did not result in increased breeding frequency or enhanced survival of breeders. There is thus no evidence that helpers' feeding contributions to young per se influence the indirect fitness of helpers.