We investigated effects of ecological and physiological factors on brood patch area and prolactin levels in free-ranging Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens; hereafter "Snow Geese") and Ross's Geese (C. rossii). On the basis of the body-size hypothesis, we predicted that the relationships between prolactin levels, brood patch area, and body condition would be stronger in Ross's Geese than in the larger Snow Geese. We found that brood patch area was positively related to clutch volume and inversely related to prolactin levels in Ross's Geese, but not in Snow Geese. Nest size, nest habitat, and first egg date did not affect brood patch area in either species. Prolactin levels increased as incubation progressed in female Snow Geese, but this relationship was not significant in Ross's Geese. Prolactin levels and body condition (as indexed by size-adjusted body mass) were inversely related in Ross's Geese, but not in Snow Geese. Our findings are consistent with the prediction that relationships between prolactin levels, brood patch area, and body condition are relatively stronger in Ross's Geese, because they mobilize endogenous reserves at faster rates than Snow Geese. ?? The American Ornithologists' Union, 2006. Printed in USA.
Additional publication details
Ecological and physiological factors affecting brood patch area and prolactin levels in arctic-nesting geese