Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference
The Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) is a shorebird of conservation concern that breeds in disturbed areas of the Great Plains and Great Basin. This species has an uncommon mating system known as a “rapid multi-clutch” in which male and female plovers tend to separate nests. The male sets up a territory and displays to attract a female. After mating she lays a three-egg clutch and leaves, abandoning him to incubate the eggs and tend to the chicks by himself (Knopf and Wunder 2006). The female lays another three-egg clutch and cares for those entirely by herself. Assuming a female lays only one clutch of male-tended eggs prior to laying her clutch of three, then most would have an overall clutch size of six eggs. This is thought to happen over a relatively short time period, with the female laying for roughly three days for the male, initiating her own nest shortly thereafter and then laying at the same intervals for her own nest. This has the potential to place a physical strain on the female and the result of this may be differences in egg size through time. Studies have linked egg size to chick survival in shorebirds but none have looked at differences in male- versus female-tended nests. A previous study of fledging success of this species found that female-tended broods had higher survival than male-tended (Dinsmore and Knopf 2005).
Skrade, Paul D. B. and Dinsmore, Stephen J., "Egg size of the Mountain Plover" (2010). Natural Resource Ecology and Management Conference Papers, Posters and Presentations. 6.