Sex-related Mortality of White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) Nestlings During a Starvation Event


During a time of food stress, we observed sex-biased mortality during the nestling stage in a sexually size dimorphic species of wading bird, the White Ibis (Eudocimus albus). Over four days spread out over a week, we captured a total of 180 25-32 d old White Ibis nestlings from a colony of several thousand breeding pairs. On sequential capture dates we caught significantly fewer females than males. Through this time period male nestlings had higher body condition indices (mass/tarsus) than females, though the rates at which male and female body condition increased over the week were not significantly different. Several sources of evidence suggest that our sampling was not sex-biased and was reflective of actual changes in abundance of males and females. These data indicate that despite the greater caloric requirements of males, their larger size may have conferred a competitive advantage over female siblings in obtaining food from parents during a time of food shortage.

Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird Biology