Zoology (Jena) 2010 Dec 5;113(6):326-33. Epub 2010 Nov 5.
Lillehammer University College, P.O. Box 952, N-2604 Lillehammer, Norway.
We compare four candidate models (logistic, Gompertz, von Bertalanffy, and extreme value function) for modelling the growth of birds. We fitted the models to two empirical data sets of chick growth (six biometric measurements) of African black oystercatchers Haematopus moquini from South Africa and little stints Calidris minuta from Russia, and identified the best-fitting growth curves by Akaike's information criterion. We also determine fitted and derived parameters, including the relative value (size) at hatching, the placement of inflection, the (normalised) growth rate constant, and the adult value (upper asymptote). The preferred model together with these factors describes how fast (or abruptly) the curves asymptote, and illustrates why growth is poorly characterised by the growth rate constant alone. Though the extreme value function model has not (as far as we know) been applied to chick growth data before, it appears to return the best fit for some parameters in our data sets. For example, we found that in African black oystercatchers two very different models best characterise two of the measurements: the extreme value function model and the Bertalanffy model for tarsus growth and body mass growth, respectively. In addition, we discuss the usefulness of fixing the upper asymptote to the adult value (e.g., adult body mass) and recommend a fixed upper asymptote in most cases.