The influence of parental experience and conditions during breeding and non-breeding period on reproductive success of long-lived birds, an example of the White Stork.

2017-2021 NCN NZ8/01902, Sonata

Principle investigator

Marcin Tobółka

The main goal of the current project is to find a pattern how long-lived, large-bodied migratory animals living in human-changed environment invest in reproduction (i.e. clutch size and nestling rearing effort) under different conditions of various environments, solving the issues of feeding requirements, food availability, physical and immunological development and weather conditions. Additionally, we are going to test how their life-time experience, different migratory history in previous years may modify reproductive abilities in response to carry-over effect. As a model species we chose the White Stork Ciconia ciconia, a long-distance trans-African migratory bird. Having regard that migratory birds spend majority of their annual cycle outside the breeding grounds, we are going to integrate conditions on the non-breeding and breeding areas to assess their role in population productivity.

The study will be conducted during three breeding seasons on the long term study area of agricultural landscape in Western Poland. As the model species we choose the European white stork.

The weather conditions will be monitored by locally distributed meteorological stations. In 50 nests (mostly where marked storks bred in previous season) we are going to install camera traps with MMS module to record arrival dates of both pair members, accurate first egg laying date, hatching date for each nestling and time where they die with probable cause (infanticide, weather influence etc.), kind of food which parents deliver to chicks. Adults will be trapped and equipped with transmitters. As the first we are going to catch previously marked adults with known age and sex. In each of 50 monitored nests we are going to measure clutch size, eggs dimensions, hatching success and regularly nestlings’ biometric parameters until their growth curve rise the inflection. For each nestling and adults we will take blood samples for corticosterone level assessment, hemolysis-hemagglutination protocol and molecular sex determination. In each territory we will record the potential prey abundance in randomly chosen plots in 2 km radius from the nest. Moreover, the land cover will be measured based on the Corine Land Cover grid database and by mapping, classification and calculation of images taken from drones (to obtain recent state and availability of foraging grounds).

There are numerous studies treating about nestling development and factors responsible how the development is realised in a wild. However, there is a lack of studies gathering in one scheme several key factors. Therefore, to the best of our knowledge, proposed study will be the first which connect majority of the factors affecting individual development of large-bodied bird species closely related to human. It will bring a lot in our understanding of animal development in changing environment. Moreover, similar aspects of white storks ecology are currently being studied in Spain, where the second biggest stork population lives. Therefore, we will be able to compare our results with other researchers and to explain particular phenomenon in broad perspective.