Age and reproduction in lesser spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos minor)
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We examined the influence of female age, male age, and pair-bond duration on start of egg-laying, clutch size, and number of young fledged in the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor). We also attempted to disentangle the relative influence of individual age and pair-bond duration on reproduction, because the effect of those factors may be confounded. Brooding performance improved with age in that old females started egg-laying earlier and old males raised more young than yearlings, and old pairs both started egg-laying earlier and raised more young than new pairs. Clutch size was not affected by age, but showed a strong negative relation with laying date. Late-laying yearling females experienced a lower survival, and the survival of yearling males showed a positive relation with fledgling production. That differential survival was a likely mechanism explaining the differences in reproductive performance between yearling and old birds. Several analyses suggested that pair-bond duration had independent positive effects on reproduction. Benefit of long-term pair-bonds appeared to depend upon repeated breeding with a particular partner. The mechanisms behind the benefit of remating with a particular partner remain unclear, however. We postulate that much of the patterns of age effects on reproduction in the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker may be caused by constraints posed by the territorial system and effects of territory quality, although effects of individual quality can not be excluded.