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Journal of Thermal Biology




Birds that nest on the ground in open areas, such as Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) and Interior Least Terns (Sternula antillarum athalassos), are exposed to high temperatures in thermally stressful environments. As a result, some ground-nesting avian species have adapted behavioral strategies to maintain thermal regulation of eggs and themselves. We assessed the impact of sand temperature on shorebird nesting behaviors by installing video cameras and thermocouples at 52 Least Tern and 55 Piping Plover nests on the Missouri River in North Dakota during the 2014–2015 breeding seasons. Daily duration and frequency of shading behaviors exhibited a nonlinear relationship with temperature; therefore, we used segmented regressions to determine at what threshold temperature (mean temperature = 25.7⸰C for shading behavior daily frequency and mean temperature = 25.1⸰C for shading behavior daily duration) shorebird adults exhibited a behavioral response to rising sand temperatures. Daily nest attendance of both species decreased with increasing sand temperatures in our system. Frequency and duration of daily shading behaviors were positively correlated with sand temperatures above the temperature threshold. Piping Plovers exhibited more and longer shading behaviors above and below the temperature thresholds (below: frequency = 10.30 ± 1.69 se, duration = 7.29 min ± 2.35 se; above: frequency = 59.27 ± 6.87 se) compared to Least Terns (below: frequency = −1.37 ± 1.98 se, duration = −0.73 min ± 1.51 se; above: frequency = 31.32 ± 7.29 se). The effects of sand temperature on avian ground-nesting behavior will be critical to understand in order to adapt or develop recovery plans in response to climate change.





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