Risks and rewards of nest defence by parent birds

R. D. Montgomerie, P. J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nest and offspring defence by birds can be treated as an optimization problem wherein fitness benefits are determined by the survival of the current brood and fitness costs depend upon the probability that the parent will survive to breed again. At the optimal intensity of defence, net fitness benefits are maximized. Most research has focused on seasonal patterns of nest defence to test the prediction that intensity of nest defence should increase through the nesting cycle either because renesting potential declines or because the probability of offspring survival increases rapidly relative to that of the parents. Intensity of nest defence is predicted to increase with parental experience and confidence of parenthood; offspring number, quality and vulnerability; and nest accessibility and conspicuousness. The response of parents is also expected to vary with the relative armament and mobility of parent and predator and the relative roles of the parents in caring for their offspring. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-187
Number of pages21
JournalQuarterly Review of Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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