International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 58, Issue 5, pp 629–637 | Cite as

Temperature characteristics of winter roost-sites for birds and mammals: tree cavities and anthropogenic alternatives

  • Martin U. GrüeblerEmail author
  • Silv Widmer
  • Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt
  • Beat Naef-Daenzer
Original Paper


The microclimate of potential roost-sites is likely to be a crucial determinant in the optimal roost-site selection of endotherms, in particular during the winter season of temperate zones. Available roost-sites for birds and mammals in European high trunk orchards are mainly tree cavities, wood stacks and artificial nest boxes. However, little is known about the microclimatic patterns inside cavities and thermal advantages of using these winter roost-sites. Here, we simultaneously investigate the thermal patterns of winter roost-sites in relation to winter ambient temperature and their insulation capacity. While tree cavities and wood stacks strongly buffered the daily cycle of temperature changes, nest boxes showed low buffering capacity. The buffering effect of tree cavities was stronger at extreme ambient temperatures compared to temperatures around zero. Heat sources inside roosts amplified Δ T (i.e., the difference between inside and outside temperatures), particularly in the closed roosts of nest boxes and tree cavities, and less in the open wood stacks with stronger circulation of air. Positive Δ T due to the installation of a heat source increased in cold ambient temperatures. These results suggest that orchard habitats in winter show a spatiotemporal mosaic of sites providing different thermal benefits varying over time and in relation to ambient temperatures. At cold temperatures tree cavities provide significantly higher thermal benefits than nest boxes or wood stacks. Thus, in winter ecology of hole-using endotherms, the availability of tree cavities may be an important characteristic of winter habitat quality.


Microclimate Nest box Thermoregulation Tree cavity Winter ecology Wood stack 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the field of V. Michel and M. Perrig. We thank H. Keil for permission to work in the core areas of his little owl conservation project and for the friendly introduction, and E. Keil for her kind hospitality. This work was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant 3100A 132951/1 to B. Naef-Daenzer and M. U. Grüebler), the Hirschmann foundation, and the Karl Mayer foundation.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin U. Grüebler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Silv Widmer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt
    • 1
    • 3
  • Beat Naef-Daenzer
    • 1
  1. 1.Swiss Ornithological InstituteEcological Research GroupSempachSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Natural Resources SciencesZurich University of Applied ScienceWädenswilSwitzerland
  3. 3.Statistical Analysis and ConsultingoikostatEttiswilSwitzerland

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