Daily patterns of nest visits are correlated with ambient temperature in the Northern Wheatear

Abstract

The diurnal pattern of foraging behaviour in birds is commonly linked to the risk of starvation and predation. During the breeding season, when offspring place additional demands on the quantity of food adults need to collect, diurnal foraging patterns may be influenced to a greater extent by food availability because adults need to balance starvation–predation risks not only for themselves but also their offspring. We used data-loggers to measure diurnal variation in rates of nest visits to 7- to 10-day-old nestlings of the insectivorous Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe in Swedish farmland habitat. Adults provisioned the nestlings with food for an average 19.5 h each day (= 11 pairs), with visitation rates sharply increasing during the morning, remaining relatively stable between 0800 and 1700 hours, and then declining in the evening. This pattern is similar to daily temperature fluctuations and is consistent with the hypothesis that nest visit rates are a function of temperature-dependent prey availability. Higher rates of nest visits on warm days support this correlation between temperature and offspring feeding. However, without data on the rate of self-feeding by adults it is difficult to distinguish between patterns of nest visits being driven by food availability, or starvation–predation constraints being imposed on the parents; thus, future studies of patterns of offspring feeding should collect data on the self-feeding behaviour of the adults.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Annika Rastén and Ulf Karlsson for help in the field and Kym Newbery for technical advice. Financial support was obtained from the Swedish Research Council (to T.P.). All manipulations described in this study comply with the current laws of Sweden and in no cases did birds abandon their nests as a result of our monitoring.

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Correspondence to Matthew Low.

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Communicated by T. Friedl.

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Low, M., Eggers, S., Arlt, D. et al. Daily patterns of nest visits are correlated with ambient temperature in the Northern Wheatear. J Ornithol 149, 515–519 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-008-0300-3

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Keywords

  • Diurnal variation
  • Offspring provisioning
  • Feeding rate
  • Food availability
  • Starvation–predation risk