Diurnal, seasonal and altitudinal variation in energy reserves of wintering Snow Buntings

Smith, R.D. and Metcalfe, N.B. (1997) Diurnal, seasonal and altitudinal variation in energy reserves of wintering Snow Buntings. Journal of Avian Biology, 28(3), pp. 216-222.

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Publisher's URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3676972


We examined the winter body mass patterns of a northern, ground-feeding passerine, the Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis, which we attracted to artificial food sources in three different altitudinal habitat zones in north-east Scotland. Despite similar patterns of food availability in mid- and late-winter, Snow Buntings appeared to regulate their energy reserves by gaining body mass more quickly during the shorter days of mid-winter than during the longer days of late-winter. The increased rate of mass gain was more than sufficient to offset the longer periods of overnight fasting, so that dawn body mass peaked in mid-winter: the birds therefore showed true winter fattening. Birds also carried more reserves at higher altitudes. These seasonal and altitudinal trends suggest that Snow Buntings increase their reserves when the risk that food will become unavailable increases. However, we calculate that most birds still need to feed every day to avoid starvation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Metcalfe, Professor Neil
Authors: Smith, R.D., and Metcalfe, N.B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Avian Biology
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN (Online):1600-048X

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
51371Effect of energy reserves on habitat selection and migratory strategies in wintering snow buntings.Neil MetcalfeNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)GR3/8263RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED