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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

Dark or Short Nights: Differential Latitudinal Constraints in Nestling Provisioning Patterns of a Nocturnally Hunting Bird Species

Zarybnicka M, Korpimaki E, Griesser M


In diurnal bird species, individuals breeding at high latitudes have larger broods than at lower latitudes, which has been linked to differences in the daily time available for foraging. However, it remains unclear how latitude is linked with parental investment in nocturnal species. Here, we investigate nestling provisioning rates of male Tengmalm's owls in two populations at different latitudes (Czech Republic 50 degrees N; Finland 63 degrees N) with the help of cameras integrated into nest boxes. Clutch sizes were smaller in the Czech population (CZ: 5.1+/-0.1; FIN: 6.6+/-0.1), but given the higher nestling mortality in the Finnish population, the number of fledglings did not differ between the two populations (CZ: 3.5+/-0.3; FIN: 3.9+/-0.2). Nestling provisioning patterns varied within days, over the reproductive season and between the two sites. Males delivered most food at dusk and dawn, having peak delivery rates at sun angles of -11 degrees to -15 degrees at both sites, and males increased the prey delivery rates with higher nestling requirements. Given the longer nights during summer in the Czech Republic compared to Finland, Czech males only showed a small shift in their delivery peak during the night from -17 degrees in April to -14 degrees in July. In contrast, Finnish males shifted their peak of prey delivery from -11 degrees in April to -1 degrees in July. Consequently, Czech males had a longer hunting time per night around midsummer when feeding young (360 min) than Finnish males (270 min). This suggests that nocturnal owl species in northern populations are constrained by the short nights during the breeding season, which can limit the number of young they can raise. Moreover, owls in northern populations are additionally constrained through the unpredictable changes in food availability between years, and both these factors are likely to influence the reproductive investment between populations.

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2012, Volume: 7, number: 5, article number: e36932
Publisher: Public Library of Science

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