The time of day that nestlings fledge from a nest is thought to be shaped by predation risk and energetics. To minimize predation risk, fledging is predicted to start as early in the day as possible so that nestlings can maximize time outside the nest to find a safe place to stay before nightfall. Fledging times are predicted to be tightly grouped and to not be affected by the number of nestlings, given that all nestlings are responding to the same relative risk of predation. Conversely, energetic considerations predict that fledging time of day should vary so that nestlings can maximize energy intake before having to forage for themselves. However, data to evaluate the relative importance of these drivers in grassland birds are scarce because of the difficulty of observing nestlings as they fledge. We used nest surveillance video from 178 nests to evaluate how the initiation and duration of fledging varied among 7 grassland passerine species, as well as by the number of nestlings in the nest and fledging date. Fledging initiation varied most strongly by species, with some effects of date. Across species, the median start time of fledging was 4.55 hr after sunrise. Fledging before the solstice started ∼30 min earlier compared to fledging at or after the solstice. Fledging duration increased with number of nestlings in the nest and was spread over >1 day in 21% of nests. While our results primarily supported the hypothesis that fledging is motivated by energetic considerations, additional data on basic life history traits and behavior will be needed to fully understand how fledging grassland birds balance energetics against predation risk.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Diel fledging patterns among grassland passerines: Relative impacts of energetics and predation risk|
|Series title||The Auk|
|Publisher||American Ornithological Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Leetown|