The use of the nest for parental roosting and thermal consequences of the nest for nestlings and parents

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Abstract

At temperate latitudes, altricial birds and their nestlings need to handle night temperatures well below thermoneutrality during the breeding season. Thus, energy costs of thermoregulation might constrain nestling growth, and low nocturnal temperatures might require resources that parents could otherwise have invested into nestlings during the day. To manipulate parental work rate, we performed brood size manipulations in breeding marsh tits (Poecile palustris). Nest box temperatures were always well above ambient temperature and increased with increasing brood size. In line with predictions, a large majority of females (but no males) made use of this benign environment for roosting. Furthermore, females tending enlarged broods, thereby having to work harder during the day, reduced their body temperature at night. This might have reduced nocturnal energy expenditure. Our finding that a higher proportion of enlarged, as compared to control, females continued to use the nest box as roosting sites even after a simulated predation event despite increased vulnerability to predation, further highlighting the need for energy conservation in this group. High nest box attendance and reduced body temperature in brood-reduced females may indicate that these females prioritised self-maintenance by initiating other costly physiological adjustments, e.g. moult, when relieved from parental work. We suggest that the energy demand for defending homeothermy is an element of the general trade-off between current and future reproduction, i.e. between daytime investment in food provisioning and the potential short- and long-term costs of a reduction in body temperature and increased predation risk.

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External organisations
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology

Keywords

Original languageEnglish
Article number171
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume71
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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