Are nest defense behaviours and fitness components linked in white-rumped swallows (Tachycineta leucorrhoa)?

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Abstract

How are personalities maintained in wild animal populations? A possible mechanism is the existence of trade-offs between fitness components (survival and reproductive success) among behavioural types. We investigated this trade-off in white-rumped swallows (Tachycineta leucorrhoa) by capturing adults and monitoring their reproduction over time. We focused on the personality trait of nest defence against a human. We found that swallows with different levels of nest defence had similar probability to return from migration between two years (a proxy for survival). In one year, swallows that defended their nests more boldly were also more likely to succeed. However, nest defence was not linked to nestling weight or number of fledglings. Thus, we found no evidence of a trade-off between fitness components. It is possible that the investigated relationships become relevant only in extreme years that severely alter the costs and benefits of this behaviour.

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