• Article

Factors influencing incubation egg-mass loss for three species of waterfowl

Many bird eggs lose similar to15% of their fresh mass before pipping, but individual species have been reported to lose 10-23%. Most published estimates have been imprecise due to small sample sizes. Moreover, published estimates of within- or among-species variance components of mass loss are virtually unknown. We modeled the influence of nest type, clutch size, and egg size on daily mass loss of Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), and Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) eggs and compared fractional mass loss among species. Mallard eggs in artificial nest cylinders lost more mass than those in ground nests, but were unaffected by nest initiation date. Average sized eggs in Mallard ground nests, Mallard cylinder nests, and Common Goldeneye and Hooded Merganser nest boxes lost 7.9 g (15.2%) 10.8 g (20.3%), 10.3 g (15.5%), and 9.2 g (15.8%) of fresh mass, respectively. For all species, daily mass loss increased as incubation progressed and was affected by an interaction between egg size and incubation time, but was not influenced by clutch size. Depending on species, smallest eggs lost 1.0-4.0% more of their fresh mass than did the largest. Egg-mass variability was partitioned into years, nests within years, and eggs within nests and years. Variability was evenly distributed among the variance components in Mallard ground nests; however, among-eggs within-nest variance predominated in nest cylinders. In contrast, among-nests variation was the dominant source for goldeneyes and mergansers. Nest-site selection and egg size likely involve trade-offs among optimum egg-mass loss and nest and hatchling survival


Zicus, MC., Rave, DP., & Riggs, M. (2004). Factors influencing incubation egg-mass loss for three species of waterfowl. Condor, 106(3), 506-516.