Drivers of within- and among-individual variation in risk-taking behaviour during reproduction in a long-lived bird

  • Bertille Mohring (Creator)
  • Frédéric Angelier (Creator)
  • Kim Jaatinen (Creator)
  • Ben Steele (Creator)
  • Elin Lönnberg (Creator)
  • Markus Öst (Creator)



Plastic and selective mechanisms govern parental investment adjustments to predation threat. We investigated the relative importance of plasticity and selection in risk-taking propensity of incubating female common eiders Somateria mollissima facing unprecedented predation in SW Finland, Baltic Sea. Using a 12-year individual-based dataset, we examined within- and among-individual variation in flight initiation distance (FID), in relation to predation risk, nest detectability, individual traits and reproductive investment (NFID = 1009; Nindividual = 559). We expected females nesting in riskier environments (higher predation risk, lower nest concealment) to mitigate environmentally-imposed risk by exhibiting longer FIDs, and females investing more in current reproduction (older, in better condition or laying large clutches) to display shorter FIDs. The target of predation - adult or offspring - affected the mechanisms adapting risk-taking propensity; females plastically increased their FID under higher adult predation risk, while risk-avoiding breeders were predominant on islands with higher nest predation risk. Risk-taking females selected thicker nest cover, consistent with personality-matching habitat choice. Females plastically attenuated their antipredator response (shorter FIDs) with advancing age, and females in better body condition were more risk-taking, a result explained by selection processes. Future research should consider predator type when investigating the fitness consequences of risk-taking strategies.
Date made available31 Aug 2022

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