Incubation Behaviour and Ecology of Ptarmigan

Incubating ptarmigan

White-tailed Ptarmigan are the smallest grouse in North America and live in harsh, alpine habitats. I studied how predation risk and microclimate affected nest site selection and incubation behaviour. Nests that were concealed by willow bushes or large rocks were less likely to be detected by predators and had a more favourable temperature regime; however, if a concealed nest was discovered, the hen was more likely to be killed by the predator. Thus, cover at the nest site has both costs and benefits for incubating females. Clutch enlargement experiments showed that incubation was costly, and that hens compensated for increased energy demands by spending more time off the nest, feeding. This resulted in longer development times for the eggs, and increased predation risk.

I am no longer doing fieldwork on ptarmigan, but am continuing to collaborate with Dr. Kathy Martin from UBC to analyze data from the long-term ptarmigan project.

Wiebe, K.L. and K. Martin. 2000. The use of incubation behavior to adjust avian reproductive costs after egg laying. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 48:463-470.

Wiebe, K.L. and K. Martin. 1998. Costs and benefits of nest cover for ptarmigan: changes within and between years. Animal Behaviour 56:1137-1144.

Wiebe, K.L. and K. Martin. 1998. Effects of predation, body condition and temperature on incubation rhythms of ptarmigan. Wildlife Biology 3: 219-227.

Wiebe, K.L. and K. Martin. 1998. Age-specific patterns of reproduction in White-tailed and Willow ptarmigan Lagopus leucurus and L. lagopus. Ibis 140: 14-24.

Wiebe, K.L. and K. Martin. 1995. Physiological and environmental effects on laying rates in ptarmigan. Condor 97: 708-717.

Haida Eco-design

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