Does begging affect growth in nestling tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor?
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Much of the theoretical work on the evolution of begging assumes this elaborate display is costly. The evidence for an energetic cost to begging has, however, been equivocal. Metabolic studies on nestling birds suggest that begging requires minimal energy, but some growth studies have shown that excess begging reduces growth rates. One difficulty in interpreting these results is that metabolic and growth studies have each been performed on different species. Here, we test whether high begging frequencies depress growth in nestling tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, a species in which the metabolic cost of begging has been measured. When we compared the growth of nestlings stimulated to beg at either high or low frequencies, we found no significant differences in their mass gained, wing growth or portion of ingested energy devoted to begging either during the experimental period or in the 24 h following the end of the experiment. We also found no significant relationship between begging intensity and growth measurements. The results of our study are consistent with previous metabolic studies on this species suggesting that the energetic cost of begging is relatively low. More generally, evidence for a fitness cost of begging via decreased growth is equivocal.
KeywordsBegging Costs Energy Growth Tree swallows
We thank Alia Mukhida for help with the field work, Carey Isenor for providing equipment and the Coldwell, Minor and Hyne families for access to their land. We also thank the reviewers for helpful comments. This project was supported by a NSERC research grant to M.L.L.
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