Age-specific costs of first-time breeding
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We investigated the cost of first-time breeding in a population of Lesser Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) nesting at La Perouse Bay, Manitoba, Canada. We estimated local survival and capture probabilities of female geese by capture-recapture analysis. We first found that birds were less likely to be recaptured one year after their first successful breeding than on later occasions. Since only successfully nesting birds are captured, this suggests that first-time breeding affects the ability of nesting the next year. We then show that this effect of first breeding is much more severe for birds nesting at age 2 (the youngest age at which Lesser Snow Geese can breed) than for birds starting to breed at an older age. Finally, we compare the mean expected lifetime reproductive success for birds breeding for the first time as two-year-olds or as three-year-olds, conditionally on their survival until age 4. On average, birds first nesting as two-year-olds produce similar numbers of offspring in a lifetime as birds starting at age 3.