Data from: Context-dependent strategies of food allocation among offspring in a facultative cooperative breeder
Li, Jianqiang et al. (2019), Data from: Context-dependent strategies of food allocation among offspring in a facultative cooperative breeder, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.tg8nn49
Natural selection should favor adoption of parental strategies that maximize fitness when allocating investment among offspring. In birds, begging displays often convey information of nestling need and quality, allowing parents to make adaptive food allocation decisions. We investigated how adults utilized cues likely to represent nestling competitive ability (begging position) and need (begging intensity), and a cue independent of nestling control (nestling sex) to distribute food among nestlings in a facultative cooperative breeder, the black-throated tit (Aegithalos concinnus). We found that parents reduced their efforts when helped, suggesting that parents of helped broods would have the potential to satisfy nestling needs more than unhelped parents. This suggestion was supported by the fact that nestling mass increased faster in helped than in unhelped nests. We found no effect of nestling sex on food allocation, but, as predicted, we found that adults responded differently to begging signals in relation to the presence of helpers and brood size. First, helped parents were more responsive to nestling begging intensity than parents without helpers. Second, female parents and helpers had a stronger preference for nestling begging position in large than in small broods. Third, the preference for nestling begging position was greater for unhelped than for helped female parents. These results provide evidence that carers adjust their preference for different offspring begging signals based on availability of food resources.