Zoology (Jena) 2007 21;110(3):176-88. Epub 2007 May 21.
Avian Demography Unit, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.
We studied prefledging growth, energy expenditure and time budgets of African Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus moquini, chicks on Robben Island, Western Cape, South Africa. The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of parental feeding on the growth and energetics of semi-precocial shorebird chicks. Chicks reached mean fledging mass, 463 g, in 40 days. The growth rate coefficient of African Black Oystercatcher chicks was 2% below the predicted value for a shorebird species of their body mass, but it was smaller than that of other precocial and semi-precocial shorebirds to date. Resting metabolic rate (RMR, measured through respirometry), daily metabolisable energy (DME), defined as daily energy expenditure (DEE, measured with doubly labelled water) plus energy deposited into tissue (E(tis)), and total metabolisable energy (TME) of African Black Oystercatcher chicks were similar to those expected for a species of their body size. DEE was not influenced by weather (ambient temperature, operative temperature and wind speed), therefore, variations in DEE may be explained by body mass alone. The relative RMR of the African Black Oystercatcher was greater, their TME was approximately the same, their average daily metabolisable energy (ADME) was less, and they spent less time foraging (short periods of parental feeding) and more time inactive than three precocial species in the Western Cape. Therefore, the semi-precocial mode of development of African Black Oystercatcher chicks reduced energy costs from thermoregulation and activity, and they were able to grow relatively faster than precocial, self-feeding shorebird species in similar climatic conditions. The growth rate coefficient of African Black Oystercatcher chicks was smaller than that of Eurasian Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus, chicks, which may be a consequence of differences in body size and latitudinal effects.