Breeding ecology of African Blue Tits on the periphery of species range

Kouidri, M., Adamou, A.-E., Bańbura, A., Ouakid, M. L., Chabi, Y. & Bańbura, J. (2015). High egg size variation in African Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus ultramarinus on the periphery of species range. Acta Ornithologica 50: 205–212. doi: 10.3161/00016454AO2015.50.2.008
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Amount and quality of resources may be variable and generally poor in habitats of marginal avian populations living at the edge of species breeding range. We studied variation in egg traits (length, breadth, volume and shape) in three populations of the African Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus ultramarinus inhabiting degraded habitats in highlands of Algerian Saharan Atlas at mean altitudes 1328–1437 m a.s.l. We found high within-clutch repeatability of all the egg traits studied. As theoretically expected in peripheral parts of the species geographic range, there was considerable variation in egg-size traits among the study populations, with eggs being distinctly smaller and more elongated at a site characterised by most human-modified habitat composed of maquis scrubland with rare Pistacia trees. Egg length and shape tended to be affected by the altitude of nest site and by clutch size, but not laying date. We found some effects of egg traits on hatching and fledging success, suggesting that fitness advantage of egg sizes is dependent of egg shape. We conclude that the above patterns of variation in egg size and shape of the African Blue Tit populations have influence of fitness. Our finding of considerable variation in egg traits between separate peripheral populations confirms the theoretical expectation and seems to be a novel result.

African Blue Tit (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus), Algeria

African Blue Tit – Mésange maghrébine (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus), Algeria (OMAR-DZ flickr, CC-by-nc-nd license)