Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hormones dictate when youngsters fly the nest, says new research

Date:
July 5, 2012
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
Seabirds feed their young less as they reach an age to fly the nest, but it's hormones that actually control when the chicks leave home, according to new research.

Seabirds feed their young less as they reach an age to fly the nest, but it's hormones that actually control when the chicks leave home.
Credit: David Boyle

Seabirds feed their young less as they reach an age to fly the nest, but it's hormones that actually control when the chicks leave home, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

The study -- published online in Behavioural Ecology July 5 -- aimed to pinpoint the main trigger which causes chicks to leave the nest and embark on an independent life, a process known as fledging.

While studying a colony of Manx Shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus), on the island of Skomer, researchers from the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences noticed that parent birds seemed to become increasingly insensitive to their chicks' demands for food as they grew close to fledging. At the same time the chicks showed a marked increase in levels of the hormone corticosterone. However, the team needed to know whether this increase was independent of, or caused by, the reduction in feeding.

They decided to trick the parent birds, by swapping chicks of different ages between nests -- which the birds make in burrows in the ground -- to see how this affected both parental care and the time chicks took to fledge.

"Manx Shearwaters don't recognise their own offspring, but will simply go back to the same nest after they've gathered food. They have one chick, which makes the interactions between parent and offspring easier to study," explains lead researcher, Dr Keith Hamer. "We swapped chicks which were between 10 days and two weeks apart in age, to see what impact it would have. We wanted to find out whether parents and chicks were responding to each other's behaviour, or whether each was acting independently."

The team discovered that adults reduced their food provisioning after about 60 days of raising a chick, regardless of the chick's stage of development. Although females more than males will adjust their feeding levels to how much their chicks beg for food, after around 60 days both parents start to ignore their pleas. This held true whether parents were feeding their own chicks, or foster-chicks of different ages.

The surge in corticosterone took place over the final few weeks before chicks fledged at about 70 days of age. This held true even when chicks had been fostered by parents at a different stage of the feeding cycle, so was clearly independent of the parent's behaviour and any reduction in food.

"Our findings show that young Manx Shearwaters leave home of their own accord when their corticosterone levels have reached a peak rather than as a result of changes in parental behaviour," says Dr Hamer. "Both parents and chicks need large energy reserves for their arduous migration across the Atlantic to South and Central America, and parents seem to reduce how much they feed their young simply to protect themselves."

"Unlike some other bird species, which let their offspring dictate the level of care, seabirds appear to weigh up the cost of a chick fledging underweight against the greater cost of losing the chance to breed again," he adds. "Manx Shearwaters have a breeding life of around forty years, so parents pay a high cost if they end the season too weak to complete their own migration."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Keith Hamer et al. Parent–offspring conflict during the transition to independence in a pelagic seabird. Behavioural Ecology, 2012 DOI: 10.1093/beheco/ars079

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Hormones dictate when youngsters fly the nest, says new research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705133849.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2012, July 5). Hormones dictate when youngsters fly the nest, says new research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705133849.htm
University of Leeds. "Hormones dictate when youngsters fly the nest, says new research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705133849.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida

After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida

AP (Apr. 14, 2014) Florida wildlife officials say they have killed five bears following an attack on a woman in a suburban subdivision in central Florida. Forty-five year-old Terri Frana was attacked by a large bear in her driveway Saturday. (April 14) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uruguay Opens Its First Cannabis Library

Uruguay Opens Its First Cannabis Library

AFP (Apr. 13, 2014) Uruguay opened its first Cannabis Library in Montevideo on Saturday, where people can come and read books on cannabis or take classes on how to grow the plant or even how to cook with it. Duration: 01:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins