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Data from: Variation in male-built nest volume with nesting-support quality, colony and egg production in whiskered terns

Cite this dataset

Paillisson, Jean-Marc; Chambon, Rémi (2022). Data from: Variation in male-built nest volume with nesting-support quality, colony and egg production in whiskered terns [Dataset]. Dryad.


Nest building can represent an energetically-costly activity for a variety of animal taxa. Besides, the determinants of within-species variation in the design of nests, notably with respect to natural and sexual selection, are still insufficiently documented. Based on an observational study, we examined the influence of nesting conditions (nesting-support quality, colony, laying date, and year) on male-built nest volume and also its potential role as a post-mating sexually-selected display in the whiskered tern Chlidonias hybrida. This tern species is a monogamous colonial bird with obligate bi-parental care breeding on aquatic vegetation. Hence, large nesting platforms are expected to be a selective advantage because they would better withstand adverse environmental conditions and provide a secure structure for eggs. Nest size may also serve as a post-mating sexual trait, and variation in egg production would be positively associated to nest size. We found that nest volume was adjusted to different environmental cues. A positive relationship was found between nest volume and nesting-support quality indicating that the leaf density of white waterlily is essential for nest stability. Variation in nest volume was not correlated to colony size but varied among colonies and years. Male-built nest volume was also positively associated with mean egg volume per clutch but not with clutch size. The fitness consequences of building a large nest are yet to be studied, and, additional investigations are recommended to better understand whether the activity of males early during breeding season (e.g. nest building and courtship feeding performance) really serves as post-mating sexually-selected signals.


The datasets were collected across a range of colonies for a 3-year period before been processed by a series of linear and logistic regression models to test various hypotheses explaining variation in nest volume and females' reproductive traits.

Usage notes

The readme file contains an explanation of each variable of the three distinct datasets with its measurement units. Information on how the measurements were done can be found in the associated manuscript referenced above. 


UMR ECOBIO CNRS/University of Rennes 1

UMR ECOBIO CNRS/University of Rennes 1