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Parent-offspring relationships in wintering barnacle geese

Animal Behaviour
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0003-3472(89)90109-7


Abstract The relationship between parent geese, Branta leucopsis, and their offspring was monitored in order to discover some of the possible costs and benefits resulting from their association. Compared with birds without young the amount of time parents devoted to feeding was restricted in autumn and winter when they spent significantly more time being vigilant and aggressive. Family goslings fed without interruption for longer periods in autumn, were victims of attacks less often and grew fatter than unattached goslings. By the time the geese migrated to the breeding grounds in spring over 60% of goslings were unattached. The appearance of unattached young was related to the frequency of parental attacks on them and to inter-sibling aggression. However, the majority of parents were still associating with at least some of their brood after 9–10 months. Birds with more breeding experience associated with offspring for longer. Maintaining association with offspring did not reduce a parent's chances of surviving to, or breeding in, the following year. In fact, birds that remained with young for the longest period bred more successfully the next year than those with shorter periods of parental care. It is suggested that extended association with goslings may increase a parent's chances of breeding in the future due to the ‘contributor’ effect of the goslings that stayed in the family. Such goslings spend more time being vigilant and repelling neighbours which enables parents to increase their feeding time.

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