Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 933–942 | Cite as

Latitudinal differences in life-history traits and parental care in northern and southern temperate zone House Wrens

  • Paulo E. Llambías
  • Mariana E. Carro
  • Gustavo J. Fernández
Original Article


South temperate songbirds differ from north temperate species in life-history traits, having greater adult survival, smaller clutch size, longer developmental periods and extended parental care. Due to its broad distribution, the House Wren, Troglodytes aedon, is an excellent model to evaluate selective pressures that may influence the maintenance of present clutch size. Here we report data on life-history traits and parental care of socially monogamous House Wrens from a north temperate and a south temperate population. Southern House Wrens exhibited smaller clutch sizes and longer developmental periods than Northern House Wrens; however, we did not find significant differences in adult survival probability between populations, contrary to a critical prediction of the cost of reproduction hypothesis. Our data did not support the hypothesis that smaller clutches are the consequence of greater food limitation in the south. Southern wrens have greater adult body mass but smaller territories; southern nestlings reached a greater proportion of adult body mass 6–7 days before fledgling, and provisioning rates to the nest per nestling were greater in the south. We did not find support for the hypothesis that reduced clutch size is a consequence of limited parental activity at the nest as southern wrens did not reduce parental care during the incubation and nestling stage. Our data better supports the offspring quality hypothesis; southern wrens invest more per nestling than northern wrens as provisioning rates per nestling were significantly higher and developmental periods longer in the south. Published results from Tropical House Wrens suggest that neither food limitation nor nest predation can explain reduced clutches in Central America. We suggest that south temperate and tropical wrens may differ in parental investment strategies as tropical wrens seem to invest even less per nestling than north temperate wrens.


Life-history traits Breeding biology Parental care House wren 


Breitengradunterschiede in ,Life-history traits‘ und elterlicher Brutpflege bei nördlichen und südlichen Hauszaunkönigen der gemäßigten Zone Singvögel der südlich gemäßigten Zone unterschieden sich von Arten der nördlich gemäßigten Zone in den sogenannten Life-history traits, indem sie eine höhere Überlebensrate der Adulten, kleinere Gelege, längere Entwicklungsperioden und eine ausgeweitete elterliche Brutpflege haben. Aufgrund seiner weiten Verbreitung ist der Hauszaunkönig (Troglodytes aedon) ein geeigneter Modellorganismus, um den Selektionsdruck, der die Erhaltung der bestehenden Gelegegröße beeinflussen könnte, zu evaluieren. Wir präsentieren Daten zu life-history traits und elterlicher Brutpflege von sozial monogamen Hauszaunkönigen der nördlich gemäßigten sowie der südlich gemäßigten Population. Südliche Hauszaunkönige haben kleinere Gelege und eine längere Entwicklungsperiode als nördliche Hauszaunkönige. Entgegen der kritischen Prognose zur Reproduktionskosten-Hypothese, fanden wir keine signifikanten Unterschiede in der Überlebenswahrscheinlichkeit der Adulten zwischen den Populationen. Unsere Daten unterstützten nicht die Hypothese, dass kleinere Gelege die Konsequenz aus einer größeren Nahrungsknappheit im Süden sind: südliche adulte Hauszaunkönige sind schwerer, aber haben kleinere Reviere. Die Küken der südlichen Hauszaunkönige erreichen einen größeren Anteil der Adulten-Körpermasse 6–7 Tage vor dem Flüggewerden und die Fütterungsraten pro Nestling waren größer im Süden. Wir konnten keine Hinweise zur Stützung der Hypothese finden, dass eine geringere Gelegegröße die Konsequenz einer begrenzten elterlichen Nestaktivität ist, da südliche Hauszaunkönige während der Bebrütung und der Kükenphase ihre elterliche Brutpflege nicht reduzieren. Deutlich besser stützen unsere Daten die Hypothese zur Qualität der Nachkommen: südliche Hauszaunkönige investieren mehr pro Küken als nördliche Hauszaunkönige, da im Süden die Fütterungsraten pro Nestling signifikant höher waren und die Entwicklung länger dauerte. Publizierte Studien über tropische Hauszaunkönige ergaben, dass weder Nahrungsbegrenzung noch Nestprädation die kleineren Gelege in Zentralamerika erklären können. Wir denken, dass sich südlich gemäßigte und tropische Zaunkönige in ihren elterlichen‚ Investment-Strategien‘unterschieden können, da es scheint, dass tropische Zaunkönige noch weniger investieren pro Küken, als die der nördlich gemäßigten Zone.



We thank David W. Winkler for helpful comments on the manuscript, Valentina Ferretti, Myriam Mermoz and Pablo Rodriguez for help in the field, and Mario Beade and Bob Johnson for logistic support. Economic support was provided to PEL by the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell Chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, American Ornithologist Union and Andrew W. Mellon Student Research Grant. Support to GJF and MEC was provided by the University of Buenos Aires (grant 20020090200117) and CONICET grants (PIP11220090100011). All methods used in the present study meet the ethical requirements for science research and comply with the current laws of the countries in which they were performed. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paulo E. Llambías
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mariana E. Carro
    • 3
  • Gustavo J. Fernández
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Avian Biology Research Group, IADIZA CCT-MendozaMendozaArgentina
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Genetics and Evolution-IEGEBA CONICET, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina

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