Assessing nest attentiveness of Common Terns via video cameras and temperature loggers

Avian Research
By: , and 



While nest attentiveness plays a critical role in the reproductive success of avian species, little nest attentiveness data with high temporal resolution is available for many species. However, improvements in both video monitoring and temperature logging devices present an opportunity to improve our understanding of this aspect of avian behavior. To investigate nest attentiveness behaviors and evaluate the ability of these technologies to record the needed data we monitored 13 nests across two Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) breeding colonies with a paired video camera - temperature logger approach, while monitoring 63 additional nests with temperature loggers alone. We examined data respective to four times of day: Morning (civil dawn-11:59), Peak (12:00-16:00), Cooling (16:01-civil dusk), and Night (civil dusk-civil dawn). Our results show that while successful nests had mostly short duration off-bouts and maintained consistent nest attentiveness throughout the day, failed nests had dramatic reductions in nest attentiveness during the Cooling and Night periods (p < 0.05) with one colony experiencing repeated nocturnal abandonment due to predation pressure from a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). Incubation appeared to ameliorate ambient temperatures during Night, as nests were significantly warmer during Night when birds were on versus off the nest (p < 0.05). Meanwhile, off bouts during the Peak period occurred during higher ambient temperatures, perhaps due to adults leaving the nest during the hottest periods to perform belly soaking. Unfortunately, temperature logger data alone had limited ability to predict nest attentiveness status, with results highly dependent on time of day and bout duration. While our methods did not affect hatching success (p > 0.05) video-monitored nests did have significantly lower clutch sizes (p < 0.05). Despite the high-quality data recorded in this study, the logistical and potential biological complications reported suggest that careful planning is needed before these devices can be utilized.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessing nest attentiveness of Common Terns via video cameras and temperature loggers
Series title Avian Research
DOI 10.1186/s40657-020-00208-7
Volume 11
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 22, 18 p.
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