2020 journal article
Night conditions affect morning incubation behaviour differently across a latitudinal gradient
IBIS, 162(3), 827–835.
Intermittently incubating birds alternate between sessions of egg warming and recesses for foraging during the day, but stay on the nest continuously at night. Hence, energy costs of nocturnal incubation (which increase during longer and colder nights) cannot be replenished until the next day. Night conditions might therefore be expected to affect morning incubation behaviour the day after. We tested this prediction by exploring latitudinal and seasonal trends in characteristics of the first recess in Eastern Bluebirds Sialia sialis over a 1400‐km latitudinal gradient in the continental USA. The time from civil dawn to leaving the nest (latency) increased with latitude early in the breeding season but decreased with latitude late in the season. Birds breeding at higher latitudes also took longer first recesses throughout the season, which led to a larger drop in nest temperature. At the local scale, birds rose earlier after longer nights if the night was also cold, but night length did not predict latency following warm nights. The first recess was longer if the night was warmer, probably because birds could replenish reserves at lower risk of low egg temperature. Our study shows that characteristics of the night led to behavioural changes in features of early morning incubation that were evident at both continental and local scales. These responses also affected nest temperature. Hence, night conditions carry over to incubation behaviour the following morning, which in turn may impose thermal constraints on embryonic development. (Less)