Adaptive significance of synchronized breeding in a colonial bird: a new hypothesis

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Science  06 Jun 1975:
Vol. 188, Issue 4192, pp. 1029-1031
DOI: 10.1126/science.1145188


Bank swallows nest gregariously in colonies usually ranging from 10 to 300 nests. Different pairs within the same colony are highly synchronized with each other, and 67 percent of the nests fledged their young over a period of only 6 days. This high degree of synchronization is demonstrated to be of adaptive significance. Reproductive fitness increases as a function of the precision of synchrony of the colony. It is proposed that social foraging plays an important role in maximizing the feeding efficiency in this species and that asynchronous breeding decreases the effectiveness of this social foraging, particularly in late nesters and among young, newly fledged birds. An individual that fledges either early or at the peak of synchrony will emerge to find a steady stream of other bird traveling to local, ephemeral, concentrations of food. The late emerger finds itself practically alone and thus is deprived of the potential benefits of the pooled information about locations of food resources available to the full colony.

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