Nutritional quality of prebreeding diet influences performance of the Florida scrub-jay

Silas Reynolds, SJ Schoech, R Bowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Citations (Scopus)


Food supplementation studies of breeding birds have traditionally concentrated on energetic constraints on breeding performance. It is only recently that the nutritional quality of the prebreeding diet has also been considered influential. We examined the importance of specific nutrients in the prebreeding diet of the Florida scrub-jay ( Aphelocoma coerulescens). Birds were provided with one of two supplements (rich in protein and fat or rich in fat only) prior to breeding in 2000 and 2001 and their breeding performance, in relation to unsupplemented (control) birds, was examined. Birds receiving both supplements significantly advanced laying in both years, and increased clutch size in 2000 but not in 2001. Laying date explained variation in clutch size in birds on dietary supplements. Egg mass and volume declined with laying order, irrespective of dietary treatment, but birds on the high fat, high protein diet laid heavier third eggs than controls and this was independent of laying date. Laboratory analysis of 14 abandoned and unhatched eggs revealed that as egg mass increased so did the absolute amount of protein and water while fat content remained relatively fixed. Using these relationships between the masses of egg components and fresh egg mass, we calculated that heavier third eggs laid by birds on high fat and high protein, compared with those laid by controls, contained more water that may be fundamental to chick growth and survival. This is the first demonstration for an avian species that nutritional quality of prebreeding diet can simultaneously influence laying date, clutch size, and egg size and composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-316
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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