Offspring often compete over limited available resources. Such sibling competition may be detrimental to parents both because it entails wasted expenditure and because it allows stronger offspring to obtain a disproportionate share of resources. We studied nestling conflict over food and its resolution in a joint-nesting species of bird, the Taiwan yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps). We show that adult yuhinas coordinate their feeding visits, and that this coordination limits competition among nestlings, leading to a ‘fairer’ division of resources. Transponder identification and video-recording systems were used to observe adult feeding and nestling begging behaviours. We found that: (i) yuhinas feed nestlings more often in large parties than in small parties; (ii) feeding events occurred non-randomly in bouts of very short intervals; and (iii) food distribution among nestlings was more evenly distributed, and fewer nestlings begged, during large-party feeding bouts compared with small-party feeding bouts. To our knowledge, this is the first study in a cooperative breeding species showing that adults can influence food allocation and competition among nestlings by coordinating their feeding visits. Our results confirm the hypothesis that the monopolizability of food affects the intensity of sibling competition, and highlight the importance of understanding the temporal strategies of food delivery.
Keywords: sibling competition, cooperative breeding, conflict resolution