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The Effects of Parent and Offspring Gender On Food Allocation in Budgerigars

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Parental feeding rates in relation to the sex of parents and offspring were studied in domesticated budgerigars in large flight cages at Davis, California. While neither the male nor the female parent preferentially fed offspring of either sex, paternal feeding rates were strongly related to the sex ratio of the brood. Fathers fed female-biased broods much more frequently than male-biased broods throughout the nest cycle, and male feeding rates were highly correlated with the sex ratios of the broods. Mothers exhibited a similar but much weaker tendency to feed female-biased broods more often, and only at the end of the nest cycle was there a barely significant relationship between sex bias and maternal feeding rate. As a result of the extra parental care, female-biased broods obtained nearly three times more regurgitations in the final pre-fledge period than male-biased broods. Brood sex ratios were unrelated to fledge weights, and male and female nestlings fledged at comparable weights. However, for all but the smallest broods, there was a strong negative relationship between the percent of females within the brood and the average age of fledging. Fledge age, in turn, was related to post-fledge activity rates. Females fledging at younger ages initiated more flights than those fledging at older ages. Conversely, in males, fledge age was either unrelated, or positively related to the rate of flights. There were also significant negative relationships between female fledge age and reproductive success (e.g. number of young fledged in the first breeding season), but no significant relationships between male fledge age and reproductive success. Hence, male parents may provide extra care to broods biased toward the offspring sex which most benefits from this extra care.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, U.S.A.


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