Developmental stage of failed eggs in the red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa

Aurora M. Castilla, Santiago Reig, Juan Martínez de Aragón, André A. Dhondt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Understanding whether egg failure occurs more frequently during laying or during incubation is important for determining the most vulnerable period of the egg phase in bird species with long laying and incubation periods. However, most studies compare nest failure during the egg stage and the hatchling stage. In this study we examined whether egg failure was higher during the laying period and early development than during the final stages of development in a population of red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) from northeast Spain. We collected 216 abandoned eggs in the field. Only 12% (n = 26) of the eggs were sufficiently intact to enable direct assessment of developmental stage, showing that 81% of 26 eggs were lost during early stages. The majority of eggs were depredated (n = 154, 71%), as evidenced by an opening hole. To take advantage of information contained in these eggs, we propose a simple method to assess their developmental stage by measuring the size of the opening of their hole. Based on this method, we estimated that the proportion of eggs lost during early stages ranged from 72 to 83%. We validated this result of a high percentage of egg failure during early developmental stages with a larger experimental sample. Nest losses in the partridge are higher during the laying period or early development. This result is important in that the direction of conservation efforts and their seasonal application should be adjusted to account for the most important factors affecting egg failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-348
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Ethology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2009



  • Developmental stage
  • Egg failure
  • Egg predation
  • Hole perimeter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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