Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 57–68 | Cite as

A comparative study of egg mass and clutch size in the Anseriformes

  • Jordi FiguerolaEmail author
  • Andy J. Green
Original Article


The factors explaining interspecific differences in clutch investment in precocial birds are poorly understood. We investigated how variations in clutch characteristics are related to environmental factors in a comparative study of 151 extant species of ducks, geese and swans (Anseriformes). Egg mass was negatively related to clutch size in a phylogenetic regression, a relationship that was much stronger when controlling for female mass. Nest placement was related to both egg size and clutch size, with cavity-nesting species laying more but smaller eggs. Egg size was positively correlated with incubation period and with female mass, and also with sexual size dimorphism (i.e. male mass relative to that of the female). Clutch size was not related to female mass. Species with long term pair bonds laid smaller clutches and larger eggs. The size of the breeding range was strongly positively correlated with clutch size and clutch mass, and its inclusion in multivariate models made other biogeographical variables (hemisphere, breeding latitude or insularity) non-significant. The small clutches in insular species appear to be a product of small range size rather than insularity per se. Our results suggest there is an evolutionary trade-off between clutch and egg size, and lend support to Lack’s resource-limitation hypothesis for the waterfowl.


Clutch mass Clutch size Egg size Sexual dimorphism Waterfowl 



We are grateful to G. Callard, the late J. Kear, K. Kilpatrick, A. Marshall, H.G. Young and Oxford University Press for their help in compiling the data on which our analyses are based. Two anonymous referees provided helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript


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© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana, CSICSevillaSpain

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