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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Delayed timing of breeding as a cost of reproduction

Low, Matthew; Arlt, Debora; Pärt, Tomas; Öberg, Meit


Timing of breeding is a trait with considerable individual variation, often closely linked to fitness because of seasonal declines in reproduction. The drivers of this variation have received much attention, but how reproductive costs may influence the timing of subsequent breeding has been largely unexplored. We examined a population of northern wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe to compare three groups of individuals that differed in their timing of breeding termination and reproductive effort to investigate how these factors may carry over to influence reproductive timing and reproductive output in the following season. Compared to females that bred successfully, females that put in less effort and terminated breeding early due to nest failure tended to arrive and breed earlier in year 2 (mean advancement = 2.2 and 3.3 d respectively). Females that spent potentially more effort and terminated breeding later due to production of a replacement clutch after nest failure, arrived later than other females in year 2. Reproductive output (number of fledglings) in year 2 differed between the three groups as a result of group-level differences in the timing of breeding in combination with the general seasonal decline in reproductive output. Our study shows that the main cost of reproduction was apparent in the timing of arrival and breeding in this migratory species. Hence, reproductive costs can arise through altered timing of breeding since future reproductive success (including adult survival) is often dependent on the timing of breeding in seasonal systems.


cost of reproduction; carry over effect; fitness; reproductive success; reproductive effort; parental workload; northern wheatear; Oenanthe oenanthe; breeding time; seasonal decline in reproduction; arrival time

Published in

Journal of Avian Biology
2015, volume: 46, number: 4, pages: 325–331

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Öberg, Meit
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Behavioral Sciences Biology

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