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Ground cavity nest temperatures and their relevance to Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea conservation

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Blue Swallows Hirundo atrocaerulea are Critically Endangered within South Africa. They nest in natural underground holes in mist-belt grasslands. Temperature dataloggers were used to record ground cavity nest (Tn ) and ambient temperature (Ta ) for one artificial and 11 natural Blue Swallow nests. Mean ground cavity Tn was significantly different to mean Ta . Tn ranged from 17.0 ± 0.1 °C to 28.5 ± 0.3 °C and varied less than Ta (14.0 ± 0.2 to 47.7 ± 0.4 °C). Mean ground cavity Tn averaged 3.3 ± 0.9 °C warmer than mean Ta for 58% of nests, and mean Ta averaged 2.6 ± 0.5 °C warmer than mean ground cavity Tn for 42% of nests. There was no significant difference in mean ground cavity Tn for the aardvark-excavated holes (22.7 ± 1.6 °C) and sinkholes (21.5 ± 1.2 °C). Blue Swallows also nest in man-made holes, potentially a way to increase nesting sites. Mean aardvark-excavated Tn (19.2 ± 0.1 °C) was significantly warmer than mean artificial cavity Tn (18.5 ± 0.2 °C). Further investigation of breeding success of Blue Swallows in relation to Tn , incubation strategies and predation risk needs to be addressed in future studies for a better understanding of their reproductive ecology.
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Keywords: Blue Swallows; artificial nest; critically endangered; microclimate; natural nest

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Scientific Services, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, PO Box 13053, Cascades, 3202, South Africa 2: School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209, South Africa

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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