The potential for animals to respond to changing climates has sparked interest in intraspecific variation in avian nest structure since this may influence nest microclimate and protect eggs and offspring from inclement weather. However, there have been relatively few large-scale attempts to examine variation in nests or the determinates of individual variation in nest structure within populations. Using a set of mostly pre-registered analyses, we studied potential predictors of variation in the size of a large sample (803) of blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) nests across three breeding seasons at Wytham Woods, UK. While our pre-registered analyses found that individual females built very similar nests across years, there was no evidence in follow-up (post hoc) analyses that their nest size correlated to that of their genetic mother or, in a cross-fostering experiment, to the nest where they were reared. In further pre-registered analyses, spatial environmental variability explained nest size variability at relatively broad spatial scales, and especially strongly at the scale of individual nest boxes. Our study indicates that nest structure is a characteristic of individuals, but is not strongly heritable, indicating that it will not respond rapidly to selection. Explaining the within-individual and within-location repeatability we observed requires further study.
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- cross fostering
- nesting behaviour
- cavity nest
- parental effects