Climatic warming is predicted to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, which may reduce an individual's capacity for sustained activity due to thermal limits. We tested whether the risk of overheating may limit parental provisioning of an aerial insectivorous bird in population decline. For many seasonally breeding birds, parents are thought to operate close to an energetic ceiling during the 2-3 week chick-rearing period. The factors determining the ceiling remain unknown, although it may be set by an individual 's capacity to dissipate body heat (the heat dissipation limitation hypothesis). Over two breeding seasons we experimentally trimmed the ventral feathers of female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor, Vieillot, 1808) to provide a thermal window. We then monitored maternal and paternal provisioning rates, nestling growth rates, and fledging success. We found the effect of our experimental treatment was context-dependent. Females with an enhanced capacity to dissipate heat fed their nestlings at higher rates than controls when conditions were hot, but the reverse was true under cool conditions. Control females and their mates both reduced foraging under hot conditions. In contrast, male partners of trimmed females maintained a constant feeding rate across temperatures, suggesting attempts to match the feeding rate of their partners. On average, nestlings of trimmed females were heavier than controls, but did not have a higher probability of fledging. We suggest that removal of a thermal constraint allowed females to increase provisioning rates, but additionally provided nestlings with a thermal advantage via increased heat transfer during maternal brooding. Our data provide support for the heat dissipation limitation hypothesis and suggest that depending on temperature, heat dissipation capacity can influence reproductive success in aerial insectivores.
The attached files contain the necessary descriptions for understanding and working with data used in the construction of Tapper et al. 2020 (Journal of Experimental Biology). The JEB_dryad_readme.docx file contains descriptions of each file name attached to this data repository, and descriptions of the data contained within each column of a data file. Information pertaining to the R code, which has been provided in this data repository as a .Rmd (R Markdown) file, has not been provided within this readme file, because necessary descriptions for understanding our code are provided within the R code file itself.