University of Oulu

Patterns of variation in energy management in wintering tits (Paridae)

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Author: Broggi, Juli1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2006
Publish Date: 2006-08-22
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on September 1st, 2006, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Francisco Bozinovic
Professor David Swanson


Winter energy management in small passerines living year-round in boreal or alpine areas presumably results in strong selective pressure since they need to find food, at a time when natural resources diminish and become less available, and energy requirements increase dramatically.

In this thesis energy management during the non-breeding season was studied in three species of tits (Parus spp.), from three different populations: Coll de Pal (Spanish Pyrenees), Lund (Southern Sweden) and Oulu (Northern Finland).

Energy management strategies vary significantly between species and among populations and individuals of the same species. Such differences may depend on several environmental factors, food predictability and individual characteristics. Birds from the studied populations appear to react to energetic challenges on a short-term basis and in a highly flexible way.

The coal tit (Parus ater) in Coll de Pal and the willow tit (Parus montanus) in Oulu, both hoarding species, relied mostly on short-term management of energy for winter survival. Social and residence status appeared to be the most important factors in determining the level of energy reserves, underlining the importance of food predictability for energy management in wintering tits.

Further studies were carried out on two distinct populations of great tit (Parus major) exposed to different winter hardiness. Birds from both populations increased their resting metabolic rate (MR) with experimentally decreasing ambient temperatures. Birds from Oulu maintained higher expenditures than birds from Lund in all cases, but also experienced higher energetic cost of thermoregulation at the lowest temperatures. The differences probably did not arise from a differential insulation capacity between populations, despite the differences in plumage structure found, but from a differential metabolic acclimatization. Birds from Lund probably became hypothermic at the lowest temperatures, which may have exceeded the levels they were acclimatized for.

The observed differences in basal MR in laboratory conditions were consistent in wild birds throughout the non-breeding season. Birds from both populations experienced similar patterns of variation in basal MR, with expenditures increasing with mass but decreasing with day length, size and age.

Great tits modulate their energy expenditure in a flexible way as a means for surviving the non-breeding season. Further, despite such flexibility, populations appear to be locally adapted for such metabolic acclimatization. These results may have important implications on their life-history and distribution.

Winter acclimatization appears to be a complex set of entangled strategies that are based on a metabolic adjustment to cope with changing energy requirements. Other mechanisms that apparently play a secondary role, for example the long term management of reserves through fattening or hoarding, or conserving heat through hypothermia and by developing a better insulative plumage, are certainly important emergency strategies that in natural conditions may explain how some populations can endure winter conditions.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-8173-X
ISBN Print: 951-42-8172-1
Issue: 467
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2006. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.