Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 805–810 | Cite as

Sex-biased costs in nest defence behaviours by lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens): consequences of parental roles?

Original Article


Nest defence behaviours, such as attacking predators and defending against predator attacks, expose birds to risk of injury and death. However, direct costs of such behaviours are poorly documented. To evaluate potential costs of nest defence behaviours in lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens), we (1) estimated the proportion of interactions between arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) and geese that resulted in physical contact and (2) examined how nest defence behaviours varied between male and female geese. We separated interactions into attacks initiated by foxes (attacks by foxes) and attacks initiated by geese (attacks by geese). Risks associated with attacks by geese were considerably lower than the risks associated with attacks by foxes; only 1 of 1,179 attacks by geese resulted in physical contact between foxes and geese, whereas 26 of 89 attacks by foxes involved such contact (two female geese were killed during these attacks). Attacks by geese were made almost exclusively by male geese (>97%), whereas female geese were involved in 75% of all attacks by foxes that resulted in physical contact with geese. There was, thus, a considerable difference in risks associated with male and female nest defence behaviours. We suggest that parental roles during nesting (i.e., females incubate and males guard) expose female geese to greater risk of injury and death. Male geese may, however, reduce the risk of injury or death to their mates with pre-emptive attacks on foraging foxes.


Nest defence Parental roles Risk of injury and death 


  1. Altman J (1974) Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour 49:227–265Google Scholar
  2. Ankney CD, MacInnes CD (1978) Nutrient reserves and reproductive performance of female lesser snow geese. Auk 95:459–471Google Scholar
  3. Anthony RM (1997) Home range and movements of arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) in Western Alaska. Arctic 50:147–157Google Scholar
  4. Clutton-Brock TH (1991) The evolution of parental care. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  5. Curio E, Regelmann K (1985) The behaviour dynamics of great tits (Parus major) approaching a predator. Z Tierpsychol 69:3–18Google Scholar
  6. Dunn PO, Afton AD, Gloutnet ML, Alisauskas RT (1999) Forced copulation results in few extrapair fertilizations in Ross’s and lesser snow geese. Anim Behav 57:1071–1081PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Garrott RA, Eberhardt LE (1987) Arctic fox. In: Novak M, Baker JA, Obbard ME, Malloch B (eds) Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario, Canada, pp 395–406Google Scholar
  8. Hurd PL, Enquist M (2001) Threat display in birds. Can J Zool 79:931–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kerbes RH, Meeres KM, Hines JE (1999) Distribution, survival, and numbers of lesser snow geese of the western Canadian arctic and Wrangel Island, Russia. Occasional Paper No. 98, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  10. Kullberg C, Jakobsson S, Fransson T (1998) Predator-induced take-off strategy in great tits (Parus major). Proc R Soc Lond B 265:1659–1664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee SJ, Witter MS, Cuthill IC, Goldsmith AR (1996) Reduction in escape performance as a cost of reproduction in gravid starlings, Sturnus vulgaris. Proc R Soc Lond B 263:619–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lima SL (1993) Ecological and evolutionary perspectives on escape from predatory attack: a survey of North American birds. Wilson Bull 105:1–47Google Scholar
  13. Lima SL, Dill LM (1990) Behavioral decisions made under the risk of predation: a review and prospects. Can J Zool 68:619–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Montgomerie RD, Weatherhead PJ (1988) Risks and rewards of nest defence by parent birds. Q Rev Biol 63:167–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mowbray TB, Cooke F, Ganter B (2000) Snow goose (Chen caerulescens). In: Poole A, Gill F (eds) The birds of North America 514. The Birds of North America, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  16. Raveling DG (1979) The annual cycle of body composition of Canada Geese with special reference to control of reproduction. Auk 96:234–252Google Scholar
  17. Raveling DG (1981) Survival, experience, and age in relation to breeding success of Canada geese. J Wildl Manage 45:817–829CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Raveling DG (1989) Nest-predation rates in relation to colony size of black brant. J Wildl Manage 53:87–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Roff D (1992) The evolution of life histories: theory and analysis. Chapman and Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Samelius G (2000) Arctic fox predation on lesser snow geese and their eggs. M.Sc. thesis, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  21. Samelius G, Alisauskas RT (2000) Foraging patterns of arctic foxes at a large arctic goose colony. Arctic 53:279–288Google Scholar
  22. Samelius G, Alisauskas RT (2001) Deterring arctic fox predation: the role of parental nest attendance by lesser snow geese. Can J Zool 79:861–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Samelius G, Lee M (1998) Arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, predation on lesser snow geese, Chen caerulescens, and their eggs. Can Field Nat 112:700–701Google Scholar
  24. Samelius G, Alisauskas RT, Hines JE (2005) Productivity of lesser snow geese on Banks Island 1995 to 1998. Occasional Paper, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Canada (in press)Google Scholar
  25. SAS Institute Inc (1990) SAS user’s guide. Version 6. SAS Institute Inc., CaryGoogle Scholar
  26. Sordahl TA (1990) The risks of avian mobbing and distraction behaviour: an anecdotal review. Wilson Bull 102:349–352Google Scholar
  27. Stearns SC (1992) The evolution of life histories. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  28. Taylor RJ (1984) Predation. Chapman and Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Trivers RL (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Campbell B (ed) Sexual selection and the descent of man 1871–1971. Aldine, Chicago, pp 136–179Google Scholar
  30. Wittenberger JF, Hunt GL (1985) The adaptive significance of coloniality in birds. In: Farner DS, King JR, Parkes K (eds) Avian Biol, vol 8. Academic, New York, pp 1–78Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Wildlife ServiceSaskatoonCanada

Personalised recommendations