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Survival and Weight Loss of Nestling Great Tits, Parus Major, in Relation To Brood-Size and Air Temperature

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Laboratory experiments and observations in the field about the effects of high temperature on the mortality and weight loss of nestling Great Tits in relation to brood-size are described. It was found that temperatures above 30° C produce mortality by hyperthermia within a few hours in broods larger than 13 young of the age of 10 days (up till 18 young tested). Mortality by hyperthermia increases with brood-size to such an extent that from the largest broods tested fewer young survive than from smaller broods. Water loss by evaporation increases with brood-size and becomes apparent at much lower temperatures than mortality by hyperthermia. Observations in the field show that in May and June there are at least a few days in which the temperature in nestboxes at sunny places rises above 30° C. These are temperatures at which the young of broods of 13 or more are in danger of hyperthermia. About 3% of the broods in rich oakwoods in the Netherlands are of this size. The effects of hyperthermia are discussed in connection with their possible role in the evolution of clutch-size. It is suggested that the increasing risk of hyperthermia and the decreasing risk of hypothermia belong to the ultimate causes of the decrease in clutch-size found in many nidicolous bird species during the season and going from north to south in the northern hemisphere.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Ecological Research, Arnhem, The Netherlands


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