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Variation in Time and Energy Budgets of Breeding Wheatears

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We examined the sources of variation in time allocation of males and females of the wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) on the island of Öland, South Sweden, throughout the breeding season. We quantified rates of prey capture attempts and specified foraging methods used. From respirometric measurements of basal metabolic rate and temperature-dependent metabolism on captive wheatears, and after having made certain assumptions abour the costs of different activities, we estimated the energy budgets of both sexes during the different reproductive phases. Males and females differed in their time allocation and foraging rates during prelaying, laying, and incubation, but not while feeding grown nestlings. During prelaying and laying, females foraged at higher rates than males; they also perched less often, gleaned more on the ground, and flew less. Although incubation was the least costly phase for females because of their low activity, high foraging rates yet indicated that this phase may represent an energetic bottleneck as a result of restrictions on foraging time. After incubation, females switched from foraging mostly on the ground during early breeding phases to hunting from elevated perches during later breeding phases. The shift in foraging behavior corresponds to the drastic changes in time allocation. Relatively high daily energy expenditures (DEE) by brooding females coupled with low foraging rates may explain the observed posthatching body mass losses. In both sexes, high required energy acquisition rates when feeding large nestlings indicate that parent wheatears then may encounter another energetic bottleneck. Postfledging was the least costly phase because, compared with the period of feeding nestlings, there were reduced thermostatic costs and a marked drop in flight time. Males and females had similar DEEs during prelaying, laying and nestling feeding, but females had lower needs during incubation. The elective components of energy budgets during nestling feeding, as well as the estimated sum of the elective components throughout the season, were 12% higher for males than for females. The elective components of the energy budgets varied more than the obligatory components (basal + thermoregulation), especially in females, and were more important in determining the variation of DEE throughout the breeding season. A validation study with doubly labeled water indicated that the energy budget model used was accurate enough for comparisons between sexes or breeding phases, but not for measuring individual variation.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, Box 561, S-751 22 Uppsala, Sweden


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