High air temperatures induce temporal, spatial and social changes in the foraging behaviour of wild zebra finches

Caterina Funghi*, Luke S. C. McCowan, Wiebke Schuett, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)
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    Understanding how heatwaves affect organisms is becoming an important issue in animal behaviour, given the changing climate. Exposure to high air temperatures can lead to lethal hyperthermia, when individuals are no longer able to maintain body temperature within their optimal physiological range. Animals will rapidly adjust their behaviour, prioritizing heat dissipation through activities such as drinking and sitting in shade to maintain their body temperature over other activities, such as foraging. Here, we used an automated logging system to consider both the spatial and temporal foraging patterns under a range of different air temperatures at an individual level, in a strictly granivorous species in the wild. We continuously monitored individual foraging activity of wild zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, a species well adapted to arid conditions, in an Australian arid area across two heatwave events. High air temperatures significantly reduced foraging activity, with the extent of this effect depending on the time of day. They also led to a significant decrease in the number of birds foraging together and to birds spending a higher proportion of their foraging activity close to a water supply. As temperatures exceeded 35 °C we saw a significant escalation of heat dissipation behaviour. Our results indicate that extreme air temperatures significantly affected temporal, social and spatial characteristics of zebra finch foraging behaviour and these are likely to adversely reduce an individual's capacity to forage efficiently, and consequently its food intake in the short term, while also potentially having implications for both reproduction and survival in the long term.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-43
    Number of pages11
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


    • arid environment
    • climate change
    • foraging
    • heat dissipation behaviour
    • heatwave
    • Taeniopygia guttata


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