Benefits, costs and trade-offs of nesting habitat selection in Little Penguins

Abstract

Nest site selection in birds is expected to represent a trade-off between a suitable microclimate for thermoregulation and visual protection against predators or social disturbance. In this study, I examine the influence of different characteristics of the nesting habitat on breeding success, predation, and the nesting behaviours of Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) in South Australia to help understand potential fitness benefits, costs or trade-offs associated with nesting habitat selection. I found that neither predation nor vigilance were influenced by the characteristics of the nest. However, nest type was an important factor for both breeding success and thermoregulation: birds nesting in rock nests had the highest hatching and breeding success, while individuals nesting in artificial nests engaged more in maintenance behaviours, suggesting that thermoregulation demands may be the most important factors for nest site selection in Little Penguins.

Zusammenfassung

Vorteile, Kosten und Entscheidungskonflikte der Nisthabitatwahl bei Zwergpinguinen

Die Nistplatzwahl von Vögeln wird als Trade-off zwischen geeignetem Mikroklima für die Thermoregulation und dem visuellen Schutz gegen Prädatoren oder sozialen Störungen angesehen. In dieser Studie untersuchte ich den Einfluss verschiedener Eigenschaften des Nisthabitats auf den Bruterfolg, Prädation und das Nestverhalten von Zwergpinguinen (Eudyptula minor) in Südaustralien, um zum Verständnis zu potentiellen Fitnessvorteilen, Kosten und Trade-offs im Zusammenhang mit der Nisthabitatwahl beizutragen. Weder Prädation noch die Wachsamkeit waren beeinflusst durch die Eigenschaften der Nester. Dennoch war der Nesttyp ein entscheidender Faktor sowohl für den Bruterfolg als auch für die Thermoregulation: Vögel, die in Felsnestern brüteten, hatten den höchsten Schlupf- und Bruterfolg, während Individuen, die in künstlichen Nestern nisteten, mehr mit der eigenen Erhaltung beschäftigt waren. Dies deutet darauf hin, dass thermoregulatorische Anforderungen den wichtigsten Faktor für die Nistplatzwahl von Zwergpinguinen darstellen können.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Martine Kinloch, Kym Lashmar and Alicia McArdle for their help in monitoring the populations on Kangaroo Island, and to Chris and Judy Johnson for transport and access to Troubridge Island. Special thanks to Tony Flaherty and Sonia Kleindorfer for their continued support of the project. Finally, many thanks to Vanessa Owens, Stephen Hedges, Rebecca Schaefer, Jarrod Hodgson and all the volunteers who helped collect the data. This project was supported by the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, the Nature Foundation and Birds SA. This project was approved by the Flinders University Ethics Committee (E388-E449) and supported by a scientific permit to conduct the research (Y26040).

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Video of an adult Little Penguin engaged in gular fluttering on Troubridge Island during the incubation period (MP4 4720 kb)

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Colombelli-Négrel, D. Benefits, costs and trade-offs of nesting habitat selection in Little Penguins. J Ornithol 160, 515–527 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-019-01636-z

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Keywords

  • Eudyptula minor
  • Nest site
  • Predation
  • Breeding success