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Thermal Effects of Radiation and Wind on a Small Bird and Implications for Microsite Selection

Blair O. Wolf and Glenn E. Walsberg
Ecology
Vol. 77, No. 7 (Oct., 1996), pp. 2228-2236
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2265716
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2265716
Page Count: 9
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Thermal Effects of Radiation and Wind on a Small Bird and Implications for Microsite Selection
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Abstract

The physical environmental factors (air temperature, solar radiation, wind speed) that define specific microclimates and their effects on water and energy budgets of small birds are of major importance to our understanding of avian thermal biology. We examined the effects of solar radiation, wind speed, and their interaction on metabolic rates in the Verdin, Auriparus flaviceps. Daytime resting metabolic rates and evaporative water loss rates as a function of air temperature, as well as basal metabolic rate, were also measured to allow estimation of water and energy flux rates in diverse microclimates. In the absence of solar radiation, as wind speed was increased from 0.4 to 3.0 m/s, metabolic rate increased 14%. Exposure to simulated solar radiation significantly reduced metabolic heat production at all wind speeds measured except 3.0 m/s. Solar heat gain (SHG) was estimated for an irradiance of 1000 W/m2, similar to that commonly observed in nature. At 0.4 m/s wind speed and 1000 W/m2 irradiance, SHG may reduce metabolic rate by 46%. SHG declines precipitously as wind speed is increased, and at 3.0 m/s, metabolic rate is only reduced by 3%. Analyses of changes in thermostatic costs associated with microclimate selection in winter suggest that Verdins may reduce metabolic rate by as much as 50% by shifting from a shaded, windy site to one protected from the wind and exposed to 1000 W/m2 solar radiation. Similar analyses for Verdins during the summer suggest that microsite selection can result in significant water savings. By remaining out of the sun and wind, Verdins can reduce their rate of evaporative water loss by at least a factor of four. This analysis clearly demonstrates the potential importance of daytime microclimate selection to balancing water and energy budgets in small birds.

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