Birds use structural properties when selecting materials for different parts of their nests

Biddle, Lucia and Deeming, Charles and Goodman, Adrian (2018) Birds use structural properties when selecting materials for different parts of their nests. Journal of Ornithology . ISSN 2193-7192

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Birds use structural properties when selecting materials for different parts of their nests
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Abstract

Bird nests can have various roles but all act as the location for incubation, so at least have to serve to hold and support the incubating bird and its clutch of eggs. Nest construction is species specific and the use of materials varies between different parts of the nest. At present we know very little about the role that these materials play in the structural characteristics of the nest. This study examined materials from deconstructed nests from four species of thrush (Turdidae) and two species of finch (Fringillidae) that all constructed nests made of woody stems. It was hypothesised that structural properties would vary within the different regions of a nest, with thicker and stronger materials being found in parts of the nest needing the most support. Secondly, it was predicted that structural properties would vary little between nests of members of the same family, but would be quite different between nests of different families. Nests were deconstructed to quantify the materials used in the cup lining, and the upper and lower parts of the outer nest. The 20 thickest pieces of material were selected from each nest part and for each piece, and their diameter and mass quantified. Each piece was then subjected to a three-point bending test using an Instron universal testing machine to determine its rigidity and bending strength. Placement of materials in the nest was non-random in all species. The materials used in the outer part of the nest were thicker, stronger and stiffer than those materials found in the cup lining. The extent to which these structural properties varied between families depended on where the material was taken from the nest. Both strength and rigidity strongly positively correlated with the diameter of the piece of material. We hypothesise that birds are not directly aware of the structural properties of the material per se but rather assess diameter and mass of the material when they pick it up by the bill. Using this information they decide on whether the piece is suitable for that appropriate stage of nest construction.

Keywords:Biomechanics, Bird nest construction, Fringillidae, Rigidity, Strength, Turdidae
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C140 Developmental/Reproductive Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:32462
Deposited On:11 Jul 2018 14:35

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