Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 7, pp 1087–1097 | Cite as

Hatching asynchrony is constrained by parental nest attendance during laying

  • Miran Kim
  • Robert W. Furness
  • Ruedi G. NagerEmail author
Original Paper


Hatching asynchrony is widespread amongst animals, but no consensus has yet emerged as to why asynchronous hatching has evolved. It is generally thought to have adaptive benefits during the raising of dependent young. However, here, we considered an alternative view of hatching asynchrony in birds as a consequence of factors acting at the onset of incubation. We recorded parental nest attendance behaviour during laying using continuous records of nest temperature in herring gulls, Larus argentatus. We tested whether nest attendance during laying was related to individual factors (clutch size and diet) and whether it had consequences on fitness outcomes (hatching spread, incubation period, hatching success and chick survival). Low nest attendance was associated with small clutch size, and independent of clutch size, pairs on a more marine diet had lower nest attendance than pairs on a lower trophic level terrestrial diet, possibly due to higher foraging effort for marine food. Broods hatched more asynchronous where pairs had a lower nest attendance during laying or took longer to complete a clutch and where the last egg took longer to hatch. Low nest attendance was also related to shorter incubation periods, possibly representing a strategy of birds in poor condition to reduce the demand of incubation by reducing the length of incubation. We found that low nest attendance during laying and increasing hatching asynchrony had detrimental effects on hatching success for small eggs laid early in the laying sequence. Increasing hatching asynchrony also had a detrimental effect on the survival of the youngest sibling. In our study population, hatching asynchrony was influenced by a more complex set of factors than simply onset of incubation and appears to be constrained by circumstances at the onset of incubation rather than to be an adaptive strategy. Thus, factors acting both during offspring rearing and at the onset of incubation need to be considered for a better understanding of hatching asynchrony.


Hatching asynchrony Incubation Life history Egg viability Breeding strategy Herring gull 



We are grateful to Sim Lee Kheng for help in the field, Scottish Natural Heritage for research permit and J. Lindström for help with drawing Fig. 3. We thank the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (NERC grant EK98-12/06), East Kilbride and, in particular, Dr Rona McGill for carrying out analyses of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Comments from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the presentation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miran Kim
    • 1
    • 2
  • Robert W. Furness
    • 1
  • Ruedi G. Nager
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biomedical & Life SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Institute of Natural SciencesSeoulSouth Korea

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