Studies of risk-taking by breeding birds have frequently addressed the effect of brood value on the decisions taken by incubating birds when predators approach their nests. However, leaving eggs unattended during predator disturbance may expose embryos to other potentially harmful factors, to which parent birds should respond when making decisions about when to leave or return to their nest. In this study, we show that diurnal changes in flushing behaviour of incubating terns from nests during predator approach were affected by egg camouflage, the terns allowing a closer approach to individual nests when the eggs appeared better camouflaged. Return times to the nests were affected by ambient temperature, with the terns shortening such times at high ambient temperatures, thus diminishing the risk of egg overheating. As a whole, our results show that the decisions of the birds on when to leave or return to their nests depended on shifting payoffs, as a consequence of diurnal variations in both the thermal risks incurred by embryos and egg crypsis. Environmental costs of risk-taking, such as those considered here, should be addressed in studies of risk-taking by breeding birds. This type of study may have implications for our knowledge of cognitive processes that affect risk-taking.
Journal Paper -
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol. 71, no. 4, 2017 SPRINGER
DOI: 10.1007/s00265-017-2306-4 ISSN: 0340-5443 » doi