Individual quality and reproductive performance in the Grey-headed Albatross Diomedea chrysostoma
The reproductive performances of Grey-headed Albatrosses Diomedea chrysostoma with a previous record (≤5 years) of consistent success (≤70% chicks fledged from eggs laid—“top” birds) or failure (≤ 70% of attempts failed—“bottom” birds) were compared during 1993 -1995. In 1995, top birds arrived back at the colony significantly earlier, had significantly shorter first and second incubation shifts and hatched larger chicks which grew significantly faster than bottom birds. In 1994, top birds also had larger hatchlings with higher rates of growth than bottom birds. In 1994, top birds had significantly higher hatching, fledging and therefore overall breeding success than bottom birds; very similar trends were evident in 1993 and 1995. Chick-rearing success and all indices of chick growth suggested that food availability was high in 1995 (and 1993) and low in 1994. Therefore the superior performance of top birds was maintained in years of very different conditions, with the chick-rearing period particularly critical. A simple model (using published demographic parameters for Grey-headed Albatrosses on South Georgia) suggests that top birds would produce 2.5 more chicks over their lifetime than bottom birds. With the currently declining population numbers, the relative contribution of top birds to the next generation may be even greater than this
Authors: Cobley, N. D., Croxall, J. P., Prince, P. A.