Abstract

The aim of this work was to examine differences in paternal and maternal care in a double‐brooded, monogamous species, the Treecreeper Certhia familiaris, in relation to food availability. As a measure of parental care, we recorded the hourly feeding activity of parents when the nestlings from their first and second breeding attempts were 7 and 12 days old. Feeding frequency of the first brood increased with the age of the nestlings and also with the brood size when 12 days old. While the feeding activities of the females were similar with respect to the first and second broods, the males were less active and failed to provide any food to their nestlings in 15 cases out of 28 second broods. In spite of this, the fledglings from the second broods were heavier than those in the first. Such a pattern of male behaviour was possible without being a disadvantage to the chicks because the food supply increased during the breeding season and the female could provide food for the young alone. Thus paternal care was particularly important in times of poor food supply, i.e. during the first brood, where the extent of these males' activity in feeding the 7‐day‐old nestlings was positively correlated with the average mass of the nestlings. Our results support the idea that the male of monogamous, altricial bird species often makes important contributions to raising the young, especially during periods when it is difficult for the female to do so alone. Males show flexibility in their pattern of parental care, and male Treecreepers change their contribution to the first and second broods within the same season.

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