Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Eggs in the Freezer: Energetic Consequences of Nest Site and Nest Design in Arctic Breeding Shorebirds

Tulp, Ingrid; Schekkerman, Hans; De Leeuw, Joep;

Abstract

Birds construct nests for several reasons. For species that breed in the Arctic, the insulative properties of nests are very important. Incubation is costly there and due to an increasing surface to volume ratio, more so in smaller species. Small species are therefore more likely to place their nests in thermally favourable microhabitats and/or to invest more in nest insulation than large species. To test this hypothesis, we examined characteristics of nests of six Arctic breeding shorebird species. All species chose thermally favourable nesting sites in a higher proportion than expected on the basis of habitat availability. Site choice did not differ between species. Depth to frozen ground, measured near the nests, decreased in the course of the season at similar non-species-specific speeds, but this depth increased with species size. Nest cup depth and nest scrape depth (nest cup without the lining) were unrelated to body mass (we applied an exponent of 0.73, to account for metabolic activity of the differently sized species). Cup depth divided by diameter 2 was used as a measure of nest cup shape. Small species had narrow and deep nests, while large species had wide shallow nests. The thickness of nest lining varied between 0.1 cm and 7.6 cm, and decreased significantly with body mass. We reconstruct the combined effect of different nest properties on the egg cooling coefficient using previously published quantitative relationships. The predicted effect of nest cup depth and lining depth on heat loss to the frozen ground did not correlate with body mass, but the sheltering effect of nest cup diameter against wind and the effects of lining material on the cooling coefficient increased with body mass. Our results suggest that small arctic shorebirds invest more in the insulation of their nests than large species.

Published in

PLoS ONE

2012, volume: 7, number: 6
Publisher: PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE

Authors' information

Tulp, Ingrid
Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies
Schekkerman, Hans
Sovon Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology
De Leeuw, Joep
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources

UKÄ Subject classification

Ecology
Zoology
Behavioral Sciences Biology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038041

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/43329