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Nocturnal resting behaviour in urban great tits and its relation to anthropogenic disturbance and microclimate

Caorsi, Valentina and Sprau, Philipp and Zollinger, Sue Anne and Brumm, Henrik (2019) Nocturnal resting behaviour in urban great tits and its relation to anthropogenic disturbance and microclimate. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 73 (19). ISSN 0340-5443

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Abstract

The ecological novelty of urbanisation poses many challenges to animals. We investigated whether anthropogenic disturbance (artificial light at night and noise) and abiotic factors in cities (temperature and humidity) predict nocturnal activity and rest in free-living urban great tits (Parus major). Our study is the first to relate nocturnal rest in wild birds to levels of noise pollution during the night, an issue that has been shown to be particularly damaging to human health. Unlike previous work on nocturnal behaviour of urban birds, we considered the combined effect of anthropogenic disturbance and urban microclimate to acknowledge that the umwelt of an animal is composed of multiple environmental variables. Using infrared cameras, we observed the nocturnal resting behaviour as a proxy for sleep in 17 birds in nest boxes deployed across the city of Munich, Germany. Although we found marked differences in resting behaviour between individuals, this variation was not related to the measured environmental factors. This finding contrasts earlier studies that reported nocturnal resting behaviour of birds to vary with temperature and light exposure. Although we did not find evidence that urban environmental factors disrupt resting behaviour in great tits, their sleep might still be impaired by the anthropogenic disturbances. To elucidate this issue, further studies are necessary that, for instance, measure brain activity.

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