Post-Fledging Parental Care in Savannah Sparrows: Sex, Size, and Survival

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Animal Behaviour








We investigated postfledging parental care in a philopatric population of Savannah sparrows,Passerculus sandwichensis , breeding on Kent Island, New Brunswick, Canada in an effort to understand the factors influencing adult birds' decisions about parental investment in offspring. Brood division was not based on offspring sex: male and female parents were equally likely to care for sons or daughters. The total duration of parental care, from hatching to independence, was similar for sons and daughters (median=23 days), regardless of the sex of the care-giving parent. The duration of parental care also corresponded closely to the time required for juveniles to acquire basic foraging skills. Despite high levels of extrapair paternity, male Savannah sparrows invested as much in postfledging care and were as effective as females in caring for fledglings, based on recruitment of fledglings into the breeding population the following year. Male parents were more likely to care for smaller fledglings and for offspring from early broods (presumably to enable females to dedicate their efforts towards second clutches). Caring for fledglings was costly for parents: survivorship decreased as a function of the duration of postfledging parental care and the number of fledglings cared for. Parental survivorship, however, was not affected by the sex of the fledglings cared for. This study suggests that sex-biased provisioning may be unlikely except in species with strongly sexually dimorphic offspring, biased offspring sex ratios and sex-biased natal dispersal.