Zoological Studies

Vol. 55, 2016

(update: 2016.9.7)

Nestling Growth is Impaired by Heat Stress: an Experimental Study in a Mediterranean Great Tit Population


Samuel Rodríguez* and Emilio Barba

Department of Terrestrial Vertebrates, ‘Cavanilles’ Insitute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Catedrático José Beltrán Martínez 2, 46980 Paterna, Valencia, Spain. E-mail: emilio.barba@uv.es

(Received 19 June 2015; Accepted 30 June 2016)

Samuel Rodríguez, and Emilio Barba (2016) During the nestling stage, nestlings of small altricial birds face energetic limitations due to their rapid development and the need to maintain a stable body temperature once homeothermy is achieved. In Mediterranean habitats, high air temperatures reached during the breeding season could negatively affect the health and condition of the nestlings. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of an experimental increase of nest temperatures during the nestling stage on the growth and survival of Great Tit (Parus major) nestlings. Additionally, changes in parental brooding and feeding behavior as a result of the alteration of the nest microclimate were addressed. Increased nest temperatures affected nestling mass, as heated nestlings were lighter than controls on day 15 in the warmer of the two breeding seasons considered. Moreover, females from the heating treatment reduced their brooding time. Fledging success and parental feeding rates were not altered by the experimental treatment. The results of this study suggest that high nest temperatures may impair nestling development and therefore affect post-fledging survival probability. Negative effects are more likely to occur in warm habitats and/or warmer years, where juveniles are liable to suffer from thermal stress.

Key words: Brooding behavior, Feeding behavior, Hyperthermia, Growth, Survival.

*Correspondence: Tel: +34963543660. Fax: +34963543660. E-mail: samuel.rodriguez@uv.es