Arrival fat and reproductive performance in a long-distance passerine migrant

RJ Smith
Frank R. Moore, University of Southern Mississippi


Long-distance passerine migrants deposit substantial fat stores to fuel their migratory journey. Many of those migratory birds arrive at their northerly breeding grounds with larger fat stores than were necessary to reach their breeding area. Both male and female American Redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) arrived to breed in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with fat, and females arrived with more fat than males in 2 out of 3 years. We test the hypothesis that migrants arriving at the breeding grounds with more body fat have higher reproductive success than birds arriving with little or no fat. Females, and to a lesser extent males, that arrive with fat experience gains in reproductive performance as evidenced by increased clutch size, egg volume, and nestling mass. The results have implications for understanding how events occurring during one phase of the annual cycle influence survival and/or reproductive performance in subsequent phases.