Evidence suggests that birds breeding early in the season or laying larger eggs are at a selective advantage because quality and survival of their offspring are higher. We tested whether wild Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) hatching early in the season or from larger eggs had enhanced growth as ducklings and larger size or higher probability of recruiting to the local breeding population in years after hatching. After correcting for age at capture, body mass, head length, and culmen of ducklings were inversely related to hatching date, but were unrelated to egg volume. As adults, late-hatched birds had shorter wing lengths (second-year birds only) and tended to have smaller head lengths (all after-hatch year birds) than early hatching birds. We suggest that later-hatching birds are smaller due to increased competition for food during brood rearing. Recruitment probability increased as natal egg volume increased and decreased among birds with later natal hatching dates. We speculate these results are due to higher mortality of ducklings hatched from small eggs, and because early-hatched birds have more time to acquire nutrient reserves that would reduce vulnerability to costs of migration.
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Vol. 102 • No. 4