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We measured daily energy expenditure (DEE) during the development periods of precocial chicks of five species of Arctic shorebirds spanning a broad range in size, in order to investigate the relationships between DEE, body size, and growth rate. We also quantified the effect of weather conditions on the energy expenditure of chicks to establish the impact of cold arctic weather on their time and energy budgets. We used the doubly labeled water method to measure DEE at ambient temperatures in an outside enclosure on the subarctic tundra at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Growth rate was highest in the smallest species, and in general decreased with adult size, as shown by the decrease in growth rate constant and later inflection point with increasing adult body mass. DEE ranged from 14 kJ day−1 in young chicks of the smaller species to 365 kJ day−1 in older chicks of the larger species. From hatching onward, DEE of shorebirds was high compared to DEE of chicks of altricial species, reflecting the high costs of locomotion and thermoregulation, and mass-specific DEE increased rapidly to adult levels. Chicks of smaller species metabolized more energy per unit mass and functioned at higher multiples of resting metabolic rate than chicks of larger species. As chicks of smaller species also had higher growth rates, and thus simultaneously invested in growth and mature function, it seems that shorebird chicks can adjust total metabolizable energy as well as its relative allocation between investment in growth and mature function. DEE was similar to cold-induced peak metabolic rates achieved by shivering thermogenesis. Because chicks were motionless during laboratory metabolism measurements, the relatively high level of DEE compared to these metabolic rates suggests that locomotion produces similar amounts of heat as shivering. Ambient temperature did not affect DEE in outdoor pens, although higher wind speed resulted in slightly increased energy expenditure. Heat produced by locomotion is possibly sufficient to sustain thermoregulation under local environments. Furthermore, when ambient temperatures are low, chicks spend more time brooding and less time foraging, which presumably counters the tendency to increase thermogenesis in response to cold.

Publication Date

October 2012

Publication Title

Journal of Ornithology





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