Data from: Age-related prenatal maternal effects and postnatal breeding experience have different influences on nestling development in an altricial passerine
Bitton, Pierre-Paul; Dawson, Russell D. (2016), Data from: Age-related prenatal maternal effects and postnatal breeding experience have different influences on nestling development in an altricial passerine, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6q711
Reproductive success and nestling performance are related to the age of parents across several vertebrate taxa. However, because breeding experience and prenatal maternal investment in reproduction often covary, the source of these age-related differences can be difficult to determine. In this study, we evaluated the influence of prenatal maternal effects and postnatal breeding experience on the performance of nestling tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor by conducting a carefully controlled partial cross-fostering experiment. We swapped half-broods of nestlings between the nest of a young first-time breeding female and the nest of a female known to have previously raised and fledged young. Our manipulation did not influence the within-brood nestling hierarchies, and controlled for the effects of egg laying order. We found that nestlings of older females were heavier just prior to fledging regardless of the breeding experience of the attending female. In addition, fledglings raised by experienced females grew their flight feathers faster, and had greater probability of fledging. Our study demonstrates that prenatal investment in reproduction by older females can have long-term consequences on nestling mass, and suggests limited potential for compensatory mass gains prior to fledging. Because our analyses controlled for feeding rates, our results also suggest that foraging quantity and quality are not the only benefits nestlings gain by being raised by an experienced female.