Date of Award


Publication Type


Degree Name



Biological Sciences


Oliver Love


Paul Smith



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Arctic-breeding shorebirds balance proximate and ultimate trade-offs in an energetically demanding environment. While these species are selective of nest sites, previous research shows that the characteristics of preferred shorebird nests do not predict increased breeding success. Thus, I aimed to identify detectable mechanisms driving nest preferences in Arctic-breeding shorebirds. Using an archival dataset, I first examined long-term nest preferences in relation to wind conditions at the East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary, on Southampton Island, Nunavut, Canada. I then studied energetic responses of two shorebird species to weather conditions across various nest types in a field study using non-invasive heart rate recording technology. I found that shorebird species which nest in well-concealed habitats preferred to have denser vegetation blocking the prevailing winds, while species in open habitats did not. This preference exhibited by concealed nesters did not match wind cues at the time of nest initiation, and protection from windchill did not influence incubation behaviour. My results indicate that windchill exposure plays a role in nest preferences without detectably influencing behavioural responses. These results were then reinforced by new data suggesting that energetic demands are higher in colder windchill temperatures, and in some species, that greater nest concealment reduced energetic costs during incubation. Overall, these results highlight the variability in nest preferences among shorebird species, and suggest that the mechanisms underlying these preferences may be driven by multiple breeding parameters, including, but not limited to, thermoregulatory demands.

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