There is surprisingly little scientific information on the behaviour of birds with their young in the nest. A current international study led by Herbert Hoi from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, now shows that the influence of the weather is a determining factor that affects aspects such as breeding performance, food supply, but also nest use.
The study used hoopoe chicks (Upupa epops) to investigate the influence of different weather conditions on breeding performance, food supply and use of nest space. Study author Herbert Hoi says: "In particular, the place where the parents hand over the food and the size of the prey can lead to different use of the nest space by the nestlings. Parental feeding strategy and prey size are, in turn, influenced by weather conditions, which are the most important determinants of nest interior use by chicks.” The study also provides important new insights into communication between parents and their offspring.
Chicks supplied with large prey were more likely to remain hidden in a more distant nest area, whatever the weather. The prey is the most important factor directly influencing the use of nest space, which indicates a crucial role of large insects for the hoopoe. In addition, it was shown that long-term effects of the weather influence the entire food supply of the chicks and thus their behaviour. It is therefore to be expected that climate changes will have consequences for the population of the hoopoe.
According to the research team, the findings are also of great relevance for nature conservation and provide new insights into the theoretical basis of habitat selection.
The article „Influence of different weather aspects on breeding performance, food supply and nest‑space use in hoopoe offspring“ by Soňa Nuhlíčková, Ján Svetlík, Manfred Eckenfellner, Felix Knauer, and Herbert Hoi was published in „Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology“.
Vetmeduni Press release