Discrepancy between factors affecting nestling growth and survival and maternal success in Common Grackles

J. Dylan Maddox, Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple factors potentially affect nestling survival and maternal reproductive success. However, little is known about the relative importance of different factors when operating simultaneously or whether the same factors are important for nestlings and their mothers. We determined the effect of hatching asynchrony, individual egg size, mean egg size, nestling sex, and clutch initiation date on the survival of individual nestlings and on maternal reproductive success in Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) from 2004 to 2006 in central Illinois. Factors most important to maternal success differed from those important for individual nestling growth and survival. Hatching asynchrony had the greatest within-nest influence on the fate of nestlings; the earlier a nestling hatched relative to siblings, the greater its mass and likelihood of fledging. Clutch size had the greatest influence on maternal reproductive success, with females with larger clutches fledging more young. Thus, both nestling survival and maternal success were largely determined by a single, albeit different, factor. A possible explanation for the apparent unimportance of most factors we measured in determining maternal success is that we did not consider variation among females. Individual variation in maternal attributes such as condition, size, age, experience, or mate quality may result in females tailoring clutch attributes (i.e., egg size, sex, and degree of hatching asynchrony) in ways that allow them to maximize their reproductive success. The discordance between factors that benefited mothers versus their offspring illustrates the importance of considering the maternal consequences of any factor that appears to affect offspring survival. Factors that increase the mass and survival of some offspring may not result in increased maternal reproductive success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Asynchronous hatching
  • Egg size
  • Nestling starvation
  • Sex allocation
  • Sexual size dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Discrepancy between factors affecting nestling growth and survival and maternal success in Common Grackles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this