Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 569–577 | Cite as

Comparative life history of the south temperate Cape Penduline Tit (Anthoscopus minutus) and north temperate Remizidae species

  • Penn LloydEmail author
  • Bernhard D. Frauenknecht
  • Morné A. du Plessis
  • Thomas E. Martin
Original Article


We studied the breeding biology of the south temperate Cape Penduline Tit (Anthoscopus minutus) in order to compare its life history traits with those of related north temperate members of the family Remizidae, namely the Eurasian Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) and the Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps). We used this comparison to test key predictions of three hypotheses thought to explain latitudinal variation in life histories among bird species—the seasonality and food limitation hypothesis, nest predation hypothesis and adult mortality hypothesis. Contrary to the general pattern of smaller clutch size and lower adult mortality among south-temperate birds living in less seasonal environments, the Cape Penduline Tit has a clutch size larger than that of the Verdin and similar to that of the Eurasian Penduline Tit, and higher adult mortality than both of the other two species. The most notable difference between the Cape Penduline Tit and the two other species is in parental behavioural strategy, with the former exhibiting bi-parental care at all stages of nesting together with facultative cooperative breeding, whereas the Eurasian Penduline Tit has uni-parental care and the Verdin has a combination of female-only incubation but bi-parental nestling care. Consequently, in comparison to the other two species, the Cape Penduline Tit exhibits greater nest attentiveness during incubation, a similar per-nestling feeding rate and greater post-fledging survival. Its relatively large clutch size, high parental investment and associated high adult mortality in a less seasonal environment are consistent with key predictions of the adult mortality hypothesis but not with key predictions of the seasonality and food limitation hypothesis in explaining life history variation among Remizidae species. These results add to a growing body of evidence of the importance of age-specific mortality in shaping life history evolution.


Cooperative breeding Nest predation Reproductive success Life history traits 


Vergleichende Lebensgeschichte der in der südlichen gemäßigten Zone vorkommenden Kapbeutelmeise ( Anthoscopus minutus) und den in der nördlichen gemäßigten Zone vorkommenden Beutelmeisen (Remizidae)

Wir untersuchten die Brutbiologie der in der südlichen gemäßigten Zone vorkommenden Kapbeutelmeise (Anthoscopus minutus), um ihre Lebensgeschichte (life history) mit denen verwandter, in der nördlichen gemäßigten Zone vorkommenden Mitgliedern der Familie Remizidae, nämlich Beutelmeise (Remiz pendulinus) und Goldköpfchen (Auriparus flaviceps), vergleichen zu können. Wir haben diesen Vergleich gemacht, um die Hauptvorhersagen dreier Hypothesen zu testen, welche die mit dem Breitengrad zusammenhängende Variation in der Lebensgeschichte von Vogelarten zu erklären versuchen, die Saisonabhängigkeits- und Nahrungslimitations-Hypothese, die Nestprädations-Hypothese und die Altvogelmortalitäts-Hypothese. Üblicherweise haben Arten der südlichen gemäßigten Zone, die in weniger saisonalen Umwelten leben, kleinere Gelege und niedrigere Altvogelmortalität. Entgegengesetzt zu diesem Muster hat die Kapbeutelmeise jedoch größere Gelege als das Goldköpfchen, eine ähnliche Gelegegröße wie die Beutelmeise und höhere Altvogelmortalität als beide Arten. Die Kapbeutelmeise unterscheidet sich am stärksten hinsichtlich ihrer Brutpflegestrategie—sie weist in allen Stadien der Brut biparentale Brutpflege nebst fakultativem kooperativem Brüten auf, wohingegen bei der Beutelmeise uniparentale Brutpflege und beim Goldköpfchen eine Kombination aus alleiniger Bebrütung durch das Weibchen und biparentaler Nestlingsfürsorge vorkommen. Folglich verbringt die Kapbeutelmeise während der Bebrütung mehr Zeit auf dem Nest und hat eine ähnliche Fütterungsrate pro Nestling und besseres Überleben nach dem Ausfliegen. Die relativ großen Gelege, das hohe Elterninvestment und die damit verbundene höhere Altvogelmortalität bei der Kapbeutelmeise in einer weniger saisonalen Umwelt stimmen mit den Hauptvorhersagen der Altvogelmortalitäts-Hypothese überein, jedoch nicht mit denen der Saisonabhängigkeits- und Nahrungslimitations-Hypothese, wenn es darum geht, Variation in der Lebensgeschichte zwischen verschiedenen Arten der Familie Remizidae zu erklären. Diese Ergebnisse liefern weitere Belege für die Bedeutung altersspezifischer Mortalität bei der Evolution der Lebensgeschichte von Arten.



We thank the many field assistants who helped locate and monitor nests and resight the colour-band combinations of breeding adults each year, particularly Sonya Auer, Ron Bassar, Joseph Fontaine, Simon Davies, David Nkosi, Pierre-Yves Perroi, René van Dijk and Ákos Pogány. We thank Gert Greef and Hilton Westman for permission to work at ESKOM’s Koeberg Nature Reserve. This work was supported in part through National Research Foundation grants (to PL and RA) and National Science Foundation Grants (INT-9906030, DEB-0841764, DEB-1241041 to TEM). Capture and banding activities were licensed by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board and SAFRING, the South African bird-banding scheme. This study was approved by the Animal Ethics Committee, University of Cape Town and also conducted under the auspices of the University of Montana IACUC protocol #059-10TMMCWRU. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, Percy FitzPatrick InstituteUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Biodiversity Assessment and Management Pty LtdClevelandAustralia
  3. 3.U. S. Geological Survey Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research UnitUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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