Early arrival at the breeding grounds for migratory birds is associated with greater reproductive success. According to the condition-dependent arrival hypothesis, only those individuals in superior physiological condition are able to bear the costs (e.g., poor environmental conditions, limited food availability) of early arrival. Condition has usually been measured in terms of energy reserves or mass but other physiological measures of condition such as hematocrit and immune function have been gaining attention. We examined several measures of condition and their association with date of first capture in Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) arriving at breeding grounds in northeastern Pennsylvania. Earlier arrivals had higher hematocrit and H/L ratios and lower lymphocyte counts. Arrival date was also negatively associated with fat score. Fat score was positively related to hematocrit, total number of leukocytes, and number of lymphocytes, but the other hematological parameters were not associated with traditional measures of condition (keel score, fat score, or a body condition index). Our results provide some support for the condition-dependent arrival hypothesis and suggest that there may be immunological differences between early- and late-arriving birds.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology