SSA Brain and behaviour in bird nest building

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Biology

Abstract

Birds' nests play a key role in avian reproduction. They act as a container for eggs and offer potential protection from predators, while aiding parents to create a microclimate that is optimal for incubation and rearing.

Nests are built in a way that protects eggs and young from the surrounding environment, be it the cold, wind or solar radiation. Research has shown species build slightly difference nests depending on what environmental conditions they experience but little work has been done to see if individuals can adapt the way they build nests in response to a changing climate.

I will be researching physical cognition and nest building in birds, using zebra finches as my study species. I will investigate whether zebra finches will select different materials for their nests when they experience different climates, and whether their material preference will change if they raise young successfully or not. I will then look to see if material preference changes as the climate changes, from example a hot previous breeding season to a cold breeding season. I will then be aiming to identify what sections of the brain are responsible for any potential nest building adaptations and general nest building behaviour.

Publications

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Edwards S (2018) Encyclopedia of Reproduction

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1645178 Studentship BB/M010996/1 27/09/2015 30/09/2019 Sophie Edwards
 
Description In vivo award
Amount £3,300 (GBP)
Organisation East of Scotland BioScience (EastBio) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 09/2019
 
Description UWO: Do zebra finches build different nests in different temperatures? 
Organisation Western University
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experimental design, conducting experiment, analysis and write up.
Collaborator Contribution Assisting research collection. Provided equipment and subjects.
Impact In progress
Start Year 2017
 
Description Dundee Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The local public (mainly children) got a chance to try and build their own nest, either using hay or pipe cleaners, and then place them on our tree. They knew the nest was a good one if it could securely hold the chocolate eggs we were handing out. Our exhibition also included a game, where people got the chance to travel around Scotland and the world matching birds to their nests and environments
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Edinburgh Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An exhibit was set up at The Edinburgh International Science Festival talking to the general public about nests. Children got to build their own nest to hold chocolate eggs in.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Explorathon, St Andrews 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The local public (mainly children) got a chance to try and build their own nest, either using hay or pipe cleaners, and then place them on our tree. They knew the nest was a good one if it could securely hold the chocolate eggs we were handing out.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club Talk: Caithness Branch 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 30-40 members of the Scottish Ornithology Club attended a talk I gave on the role of temperature in nest building in birds. The purpose of the talk was to inform the general public and local ornithologists about nest building behaviour, and spark a deeper interested in nest building (an often over looked behaviour). There were lots of questions about how members of the community can assist birds during the breeding season.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club Talk: Inverness Branch 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 30-40 members of the Scottish Ornithology Club attended a talk I gave on the role of temperature in nest building in birds. The purpose of the talk was to inform the general public and local ornithologists about nest building behaviour, and spark a deeper interested in nest building (an often over looked behaviour). There were lots of questions about how members of the community can assist birds during the breeding season.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club Talk: Orkney Branch 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 30-40 members of the Scottish Ornithology Club attended a talk I gave on the role of temperature in nest building in birds. The purpose of the talk was to inform the general public and local ornithologists about nest building behaviour, and spark a deeper interested in nest building (an often over looked behaviour). There were lots of questions about how members of the community can assist birds during the breeding season.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club Talk: St Andrews Branch 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 30-40 members of the Scottish Ornithology Club attended a talk I gave on the role of temperature in nest building in birds. The purpose of the talk was to inform the general public and local ornithologists about nest building behaviour, and spark a deeper interested in nest building (an often over looked behaviour). There were lots of questions about how members of the community can assist birds during the breeding season.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club, Dundee 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was asked to give a talk to the St Andrews branch of the Scottish Ornithology Club on my current research into blue tits and their nest building.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club, St Andrews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was asked to give a talk to the St Andrews branch of the Scottish Ornithology Club on my current research into blue tits and their nest building.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Scottish Ornithology Club, St Andrews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was asked to give a talk to the St Andrews branch of the Scottish Ornithology Club on my current research into zebra finches and their nest building
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017