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Biology session

The effects of weather conditions on nestling feeding by parents in House Sparrows (Passer domesticus)
Pipoly Ivett Ildikó III. évfolyam
SzIE, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Ecology; University of Pannonia, Department of Limnology
Supervisor: Dr. András Liker


The effects of climatic changes on various behaviors of animals have been documented, but there is little information about how weather conditions influence parental care in birds.

In this study we investigated the relationship between the ambient weather conditions and the intensity of parental care, measured as the feeding rates of nestlings by their parents, in House Sparrows. The studied sparrow population breeds in a nest-box colony, in the Zoo Veszprém. We monitored the activity of the parents by observing their feeding visits to the nest-boxes, three times during the nestling period, with each observation taking 30 minutes. We gathered the following weather data during each observation: air temperature, wind velocity, rainfall, sunlight. These data were checked and expanded by additional data from a nearby meteorological station.

Our results showed that the rates of feeding visits both by males and females were repeatable within a specific brood. This conclusion is similar to other researches.

The feeding rate of females was positively correlated with the age and the number of the nestlings, while the feeding rate of males decreased as the nestlings got older.

Wind velocity had a positive effect on the females’ feeding rates, while we detected a negative trend in males. Other variables were not related to the parents’ feeding rates, including air temperature, rainfall, length of sunny periods, the date and the starting time of the observations, the number of people around the nests, the level of the anthropogenic disturbance, the size of the collected food, and the behaviour of the birds’ mate.

These results suggest that House Sparrow parents can feed their nestlings at a relatively constant rate within a wide range of environmental conditions, according to the age and number of nestlings. An explanation for the effect of wind velocity may be that strong wind can cool the environment and the nest, which may increase the nestlings’ food demand. Another potential explanation is that it can be hard to collect insects in strong wind which can alter the foraging behavior of the parents.

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