High renesting rates in arctic-breeding Dunlin (Calidris alpina): a clutch-removal experiment

The propensity to replace a clutch is a complex component of avian reproduction and poorly understood. We experimentally removed clutches from an Arctic-breeding shorebird, the Dunlin (Calidris alpina arcticola), during early and late stages of incubation to investigate replacement clutch rates, renesting interval, and mate and site fidelity between nesting attempts. In contrast to other Arctic studies, we documented renesting by radiotracking individuals to find replacement clutches. We also examined clutch size and mean egg volume to document changes in individual females’ investment in initial and replacement clutches. Finally, we examined the influence of adult body mass, clutch volume, dates of clutch initiation and nest loss, and year on the propensity to renest. We found high (82–95%) and moderate (35–50%) rates of renesting for early and late incubation treatments. Renesting intervals averaged 4.7–6.8 days and were not different for clutches removed early or late in incubation. Most pairs remained together for renesting attempts. Larger females were more likely to replace a clutch; female body mass was the most important parameter predicting propensity to renest. Clutches lost later in the season were less likely to be replaced. We present evidence that renesting is more common in Arctic-breeding shorebirds than was previously thought, and suggest that renesting is constrained by energetic and temporal factors as well as mate availability. Obtaining rates of renesting in species breeding at different latitudes will help determine when this behavior is likely to occur; such information is necessary for demographic models that include individual and population-level fecundity estimates.

Gates, H. R., R. B. Lanctot, and A. N. Powell. 2013. High renesting rates in arctic-breeding Dunlin (Calidris alpina): a clutch-removal experiment. Auk 130: 372–380.

ABR's triple bottom line: "Environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability"