Proximate causes and fitness consequences of double brooding in female barn owls

Jabi Zabala, Xavier Lambin, Julien Soufflot, Philibert Soufflot, Delphine Chenesseau, Alexandre Millon*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Multiple brooding, reproducing twice or more per year, is an important component of life-history strategies. However, what proximate factors drive the frequency of multiple brooding and its fitness consequences for parents and offspring remains poorly known. Using long-term longitudinal data, we investigated double brooding in a barn owl population in France. We assessed the effects of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors and the consequences of double brooding on fledgling recruitment and female lifetime reproductive success. The occurrence of double brooding in the population, ranging from 0 to 87%, was positively related to the number of rodent prey stored at the nest. Females laying early in the season were more likely to breed twice and the probability of double brooding increased with smaller initial brood size, female age and the storage of wood mice at the nest early in the season. Fledglings from first broods recruited more often (8.2%) than those from single broods (3.8%) or second broods (3.3%), but this was primarily the consequence of laying dates, not brood type per se. Females producing two broods within a year, at least once in their lifetime, had higher lifetime reproductive success and produced more local recruits than females that did not (15.6 ± 8.1 vs. 6.1 ± 3.8 fledglings, 0.96 ± 1.2 vs. 0.24 ± 0.6 recruits). Our results suggests that the fitness benefits of double brooding exceed costs and that within-year variability in double brooding may be related to heterogeneity in individual/territory quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-103
Number of pages13
Early online date30 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Lifetime reproductive success
  • Reproductive tactics
  • Recruits
  • Individual heterogeneity
  • Brood type
  • Breeding
  • Strigiformes
  • Reproduction
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Seasons
  • France

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