SREL Reprint #2190

 

 

 

 

COMPOSITION OF WOOD DUCK EGGS IN RELATION TO EGG SIZE, LAYING SEQUENCE, AND SKIPPED DAYS OF LAYING

ROBERT A. KENNAMER, SARAH K. ALSUM, AND SHEILA V. COLWELL
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, South Carolina 29802, USA

ABSTRACT.-We collected 138 freshly laid Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) eggs from 13 nests to determine the effects of egg size, laying sequence, and skipped laying days on egg composition. All components except yolk ash and eggshell, both wet and dry, increased in direct proportion to fresh-egg mass. Egg size increased during the first half of laying and decreased thereafter. The effects of laying sequence were component-specific. Absolute levels of neutral lipids (comprising 65.6% of dry yolk) were near average until about 75% of the clutch was completed and then declined. Mass of albumen components tended to increase sharply with the first few eggs and then decrease as laying progressed. Fat indices (egg lipid/lean dryegg content) tended to be highest in the first 40% of the clutch. We interpret laying-sequence effects on egg composition as adaptations that enable female Wood Ducks to initiate incubation before clutch completion and still allow for synchronous hatching without compromising the hatching success of first-laid eggs. Hens frequently skipped a laying day between the penultimate and ultimate egg, which tended to increase the mass of the yolk component in last-laid eggs compared with those that were laid the day following the penultimate egg.

SREL Reprint #2190

Kennamer, R.A., S.K. Alsum, and S.V. Colwell. 1997. Composition of wood duck eggs in relation to egg size, laying sequence, and skipped days of laying. The Auk 114:479-487.

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