Stealing of provisioned food items by adult conspecifics (intraspecific kleptoparasitism or piracy) is common among birds, can reduce breeding success and may be one disadvantage of colonial breeding. Theft by chicks from neighbouring broods has rarely been quantified but may have similar reproductive consequences and the factors that influence it require further study. We took advantage of unusually diverse weather during the critical early stages of growth to elucidate the factors driving kleptoparasitic behavior of Common Tern Sterna hirundo chicks. Kleptoparasitism was restricted to misty days when large chicks were fed much smaller fish than on other days, inducing them to steal from neighbouring broods with young chicks. Our study indicates that kleptoparasitism by chicks could be a way to overcome shortfalls in parental provisioning, and may be a net cost of colonial breeding. Our results both provide evidence of a potential mechanism behind food-stealing by chicks and suggest hypotheses for future testing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology