Reproductive performance, mate fidelity and nest cavity fidelity in Red-billed Tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus mesonauta on St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands

Mate choice and nest cavity selection are directly linked to reproductive performance in seabirds, and disruption of these can result in breeding failure. The Redbilled Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus mesonauta breeds on inaccessible and remote islands, nesting primarily in natural rock cavities. I examined the relationship between reproductive performance and mate and nest cavity fidelity on St. Eustatius from 2012 to 2016, corresponding to four successive breeding seasons. The majority of nest failures occurred during the incubation stage. Pairs that failed in their first breeding attempt and laid a replacement clutch were more likely to be faithful to their mate and nest cavity within and between seasons than pairs that bred successfully. Only two replacement clutches (3.8%) were laid after the loss of a chick in the first breeding attempt, whereas the remaining 50 replacement clutches (96.2%) were laid after the loss of an egg. The stage at which pairs split had no influence on mate or nest cavity retention the following season. There were no significant differences in the weight or morphological measurements of chicks from pairs that retained their nest mate and/or cavity and those that switched. The results of this study suggest that switching nest mate or nest cavity does not necessarily improve subsequent breeding success among Red-billed Tropicbirds on St. Eustatius.

Key words: mate fidelity, nest cavity fidelity, Phaethon aethereus mesonauta, reproductive performance


Contact: Hannah Madden (

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