Factors affecting chick growth in the South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki): food supply, weather and hatching date
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- Ritz, M.S., Hahn, S. & Peter, HU. Polar Biol (2005) 29: 53. doi:10.1007/s00300-005-0027-z
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This study investigated chick growth in a pelagic Antarctic seabird, the South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki). The factors food supply, weather and hatching date were analysed in a population of 54 breeding pairs at King George Island/South Shetland Islands. Food supply was manipulated by offering fish corresponding to 20% of daily energy demand of chicks to half of the breeding pairs every second day. Growth of mass, head, wing and tarsus was followed and related to the treatment, weather conditions, hatching date and interactive effects. Food supply did not limit chick growth in the studied season. Parents seemed to try to feed their chicks at a maximum rate and succeeded in the studied season because the general food supply was very good. Low temperatures and strong winds depressed chick growth. A growth advantage of food-supplemented chicks could be observed when the natural conditions for chick growth were sub-optimal. Chick growth rate was strongly negatively associated with hatching date and worsening weather during the reproductive season could be excluded as explanatory variable for this finding.