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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Determinants of fitness in an island population of song sparrows Hochachka, Wesley Michael


Patterns and causes of variation in the reproductive success of Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) are investigated in this thesis. The two general patterns looked for were: inter-annual variation in reproductive success, and repeatability of reproductive success of individual parents. The specific problems addressed were: (1) whether intra-seasonal variation in reproductive success was the result of differences in the quality of parents or their territories; (2) whether nutritional condition of nestlings affected their subsequent survival; (3) whether variation in morphology of adult sparrows was influenced by the conditions under which birds grew up; and (4) given the patterns discovered in the first three sections, how trade-offs between present and future reproduction constrain the effort expended by adult sparrows in reproduction. Data used in this thesis came from a long-term (1975-present) descriptive study of the population of Song Sparrows living on Mandarte Island, B.C., Canada. Data on survival, reproductive success, and nestling and adult morphology were all available. The approach taken in the thesis was to search for systematic variation in the data, and from these patterns to make inferences about cause and effect. The following conclusions are made: (1) the intra-seasonal decline in clutch size, observed in populations of many species of birds, was the result of poor birds or birds on poor quality territories both nesting later and laying smaller clutches; (2) nestlings in better nutritional condition had a higher probability of survival while under the care of their parents, than nestlings in poor nutritional condition; (3) the probability of survival of offspring after they left their parents' care was lower for young born later in the year, but this pattern is not caused by variation among parents or their territories (contrary to the cause of seasonal decline in clutch size); (4) morphology of birds as adults was affected by the environment that birds grew up in, with nutritional condition and population density while a nestling both affecting adult morphology; (5) the effort that parents expend on reproduction is constrained by ability to vary reproductive effort with date of nesting and parental age.

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