Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 823–828 | Cite as

Water economy in bird nests

  • Øivind Andersen
  • Johan B. Steen


Nest humidity (\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \)) under an incubating bantam hen was measured at ambient\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) ranging from 1.3 to 25.0 mmHg. Weight loss of eggs was recorded in clutches of varying size. Nest\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) and ambient\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) were also measured in wild incubating willow ptarmigan nests in dry and wet habitats.

Nest\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) increased linearly with ambient\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) in a way predictable on the assumption that the water vapour conductance (\(G_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \)) of brood patch skin, plumage and eggs were constant and independent of ambient\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \). Nest\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) was also dependent of clutch size. Egg dehydration was quantitatively predicted from measured values and the laws of diffusion.

Our findings confirm earlier conclusions that the adult bird does not actively regulate nest\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \) at varying ambient\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \). Birds can presumably achieve appropriate egg dehydration by a strategy combining nest site, nest construction, egg shell conductance and incubation behaviour which meets the requirements of their breeding climate.


Water Vapour Nest Site Clutch Size Early Conclusion Adult Bird 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


\(P_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \)

water vapur pressure

\(G_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \)

water vapur conductance

\(\dot M_{{\text{H}}_2 {\text{O}}} \)

water flux


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Øivind Andersen
    • 1
  • Johan B. Steen
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of General PhysiologyUniversity of OsloOslo 3Norway

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