In many bird populations, variation in the timing of reproduction exists but it is not obvious how this variation is maintained as timing has substantial fitness consequences. Daily energy expenditure (DEE) during the egg laying period increases with decreasing temperatures and thus perhaps only females that can produce eggs at low energetic cost will lay early in the season, at low temperatures. We tested whether late laying females have a higher daily energy expenditure during egg laying than early laying females in 43 great tits (Parus major), by comparing on the same day the DEE of early females late in their laying sequence with DEE of late females early in their egg laying sequence. We also validated the assumption that there are no within female differences in DEE within the egg laying sequence. We found a negative effect of temperature and a positive effect of female body mass on DEE but no evidence for differences in DEE between early and late laying females. However, costs incurred during egg laying may have carry-over effects later in the breeding cycle and if such carry-over effects differ for early and late laying females this could contribute to the maintenance of phenotypic variation in laying dates.
te Marvelde, L., Webber, S. L., Meijer, H. A. J., & Visser, M. E. (2012). Energy expenditure during egg laying is equal for early and late breeding free-living female great tits. Oecologia, 168(3), 631-638. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2122-x