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Annual Reproductive Yield in the Cooperative Pygmy Nuthatch (sitta-Pygmaea)

Sydeman, William J. and Guntert, Marcel and Balda, Russell P. (1988) Annual Reproductive Yield in the Cooperative Pygmy Nuthatch (sitta-Pygmaea). The Auk, 105 (1). pp. 70-77. ISSN 1938-4254


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We studied cooperative-breeding Pygmy Nuthatches (Sitta pygmaea) for 4 yr in northern Arizona. Breeding units contained 2-5 birds. Helpers were found at about 30% of all nests. All helpers that later bred on the study area were male. Helpers were mostly yearlings, and offspring or siblings of the birds that they aided, but often aided at least one unrelated breeder. Breeding units with helpers produced significantly more young than those without helpers. Breeding units in habitats with the greatest floral diversity and structural maturity fledged significantly more young than those in other habitats. Habitat did not influence the effect of helpers. Year effects increased the strength of the relationship between helpers and annual reproductive output. Previous breeding experience and pair-bond duration were not related to reproductive success. Total brood loss, although rare, was responsible for the difference in reproductive output among pairs with and without helpers and between habitats. Breeding birds with helpers benefit by an increase in direct fitness. The advantage to the helpers is not clear but may be an increase in indirect fitness associated with aiding relatives. Helpers may benefit directly, however, by sharing roosting cavities on a group territory thereby enhancing overwinter survival.

Item Type: Article
Publisher’s Statement: Published by American Ornithologists' Union (AOU).
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Faculty/Staff
Department/Unit: College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Science > Biological Sciences
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2015 21:02
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/459

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