Factors Affecting Vocalization in Tengmalm's Owl (Aegolius funereus) Fledglings during Post-Fledging Dependence Period: Scramble Competition or Honest Signalling of Need?
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Begging behaviour of nestlings has been intensively studied for several decades as a key component of parent-offspring conflict. There are essentially two main theories to account for intensity of food solicitation among offspring: that intensity of begging is related to some form of scramble competition between nest mates or that it offers honest signalling of need to parents. The vast majority of studies which have addressed begging behaviour have been based on observations of, and experiments on, nestlings and have not considered begging behaviour, during the post-fledging period. Begging vocalizations in this post-fledging phase of dependence have rarely been studied, despite the importance of vocalizations as a communication method between offspring and parents, particularly for nocturnal species. We radiotracked 39 fledglings of the Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus) in two years with different availability of prey: 2010 (n = 29 fledglings) and 2011 (n = 10 fledglings) and made 1320 nightly localizations in which we recorded presence or absence of begging calls. Within years, the most important measures related to the probability of vocalization were body condition at fledging, time of night, number of surviving siblings, age and weather conditions. Begging intensity increased with age in both years; however, in the year with low prey availability fledglings vocalized significantly more often. The main factor causing these differences between years was probably the different availability of prey, affecting breeding success, post-fledging behaviour, and thus also both short-and long-term needs of offspring. We believe that our results suggest honest signalling of their fledgling’s need.
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