Effect of intraspecific interactions on seasonal decline in productivity of Common Terns Sterna hirundo

Stephen A. Oswald, Jennifer M. Arnold, Jeremy J. Hatch, Ian C.T. Nisbet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Capsule: Kleptoparasitic activities of older chicks from earlier nests did not contribute to late reproductive declines. Aims: To determine whether intraspecific interactions, such as kleptoparasitism and aggression, were experienced more frequently by birds breeding late in the season as a result of exposure to breeders at a more advanced stage. If so, to investigate whether this was the cause of the observed seasonal decline in reproductive parameters observed at Bird Island, where nesting density is high and interactions are more probable. Methods: Plots were fenced within the colony, exploiting natural variability in distribution of early and peak breeders to create two treatments: plots with only late-laying terns and those with a mixture of early-, peak- and late-layers. Hatching success, productivity and the growth and survival of chicks were measured for all late-laying pairs. Intraspecific interactions, adult attendance and provisioning of chicks were recorded during 9600 minutes of nest observations made within two periods: a few days after hatching and one week later. Results: The frequency of intraspecific interactions was maintained by the kleptoparasitic activities of older chicks within the mixed-laying-date treatment and was significantly lower in plots containing only late breeders with chicks of similar ages (mean 11.0 days). The overall rate was rarely greater than two interactions per nest per hour and there was no corresponding reduction in the growth or survival of chicks from late nests or any change in the provisioning activities of late-breeding adults. Conclusion: Increased frequency of intraspecific interactions experienced by late breeders in the presence of early-breeding conspecifics resulted from the kleptoparasitic activities of older chicks but was not sufficient to contribute to the observed seasonal reproductive decline at this dense breeding colony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-79
Number of pages10
JournalBird Study
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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