The influence of climate on avian nest construction across large geographical gradients

Heenan, C. B., Goodman, B. A. and White, C. R. (2015) The influence of climate on avian nest construction across large geographical gradients. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 24 11: 1203-1211. doi:10.1111/geb.12378


Author Heenan, C. B.
Goodman, B. A.
White, C. R.
Title The influence of climate on avian nest construction across large geographical gradients
Journal name Global Ecology and Biogeography   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1466-8238
1466-822X
Publication date 2015-11-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/geb.12378
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 24
Issue 11
Start page 1203
End page 1211
Total pages 9
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Subject 2306 Global and Planetary Change
1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
2303 Ecology
Abstract Aim: Nest microclimate is a critical determinant of the survival and development of embryonic and juvenile birds. While abiotic variables such as temperature, precipitation and elevation will influence the conditions experienced by offspring within the nest, parent birds may also exercise some control through nest design and the selection of construction material. The aim of this study is to determine whether avian nest construction and the composition of nest construction material is influenced by geographical variation in climate. In addition, this study aims to address whether the correlation between nest construction and elevation highlighted by other studies is independent of the association between elevation and climate, or if other unmeasured variables are at play. Location: Australia Methods: We measured the structural and thermal properties of 201 cup-shaped nests, from 36 Australian passerine species, and related these to temperature, precipitation and elevation. Results: The rate of heat loss from avian nests is correlated with temperature, precipitation and elevation. Birds that construct nests in cool climates use well-insulating materials irrespective of precipitation, while birds in warm climates use poorly insulating materials when exposed to high rainfall but not when exposed to low rainfall. Main conclusions: Local climate influences the construction of nests, through modification of the materials used, and therefore the rate of heat loss from the nest as a whole. In many climates, birds use well-insulating materials; however, birds breeding in warm and wet climates construct their nests with materials that have a higher thermal conductivity. Such nests are possibly less absorptive and able to dry out faster following a rain event, to restore the insulating function of the nest. These findings highlight the importance of studies over large geographical scales for understanding nest construction by birds.
Formatted abstract
Aim
Nest microclimate is a critical determinant of the survival and development of embryonic and juvenile birds. While abiotic variables such as temperature, precipitation and elevation will influence the conditions experienced by offspring within the nest, parent birds may also exercise some control through nest design and the selection of construction material. The aim of this study is to determine whether avian nest construction and the composition of nest construction material is influenced by geographical variation in climate. In addition, this study aims to address whether the correlation between nest construction and elevation highlighted by other studies is independent of the association between elevation and climate, or if other unmeasured variables are at play.

Location
Australia

Methods
We measured the structural and thermal properties of 201 cup-shaped nests, from 36 Australian passerine species, and related these to temperature, precipitation and elevation.

Results
The rate of heat loss from avian nests is correlated with temperature, precipitation and elevation. Birds that construct nests in cool climates use well-insulating materials irrespective of precipitation, while birds in warm climates use poorly insulating materials when exposed to high rainfall but not when exposed to low rainfall.

Main conclusions
Local climate influences the construction of nests, through modification of the materials used, and therefore the rate of heat loss from the nest as a whole. In many climates, birds use well-insulating materials; however, birds breeding in warm and wet climates construct their nests with materials that have a higher thermal conductivity. Such nests are possibly less absorptive and able to dry out faster following a rain event, to restore the insulating function of the nest. These findings highlight the importance of studies over large geographical scales for understanding nest construction by birds.
Keyword Avian nest construction
Climate
Elevation
Insulation
Precipitation
Reproductive energetics
Temperature
Thermal conductance
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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