Assessing timing of fledging in a cavity-nesting passerine using temperature data loggers



altricial birds, fledging age, fledging time, Parus major, temperature logger


In altricial birds, the length of the nestling period, i.e. time from hatching until fledging (young leaving the nest) varies within and between species. In general, however, variation in the time of fledging and factors mediating such variation remain largely unexplored. To assess the time of nestlings leaving the nest, daily observer visits to the nest are usually done in the predicted fledging period. However, this might initiate premature fledging of young and/or increase the predation risk. The application of iButtons – coin-sized temperature data loggers, which are increasingly used in ornithological studies – may help to overcome these obstacles. We tested whether nest temperatures recorded with iButtons might be used to identify the date and hour of young fledging, i.e. when the last nestling in the brood left the nest, in a small cavity-nesting passerine – the Great Tit (Parus major). We installed iButtons in 38 nests when nestlings were 14–15 days old (hatching day = day 0) and verified the presence of nestlings during daily inspections starting on day 17 post-hatching or later. We found that the day of fledging could be accurately determined based on the difference between the temperature of the nest cup and the outside. The age of nestlings ranged between 17 and 22 days at fledging, with nearly 58% of broods fledging at the age of 20 and 21 days. The majority (81.6%) of broods fledged within 6 h after sunrise. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using iButtons to identify fledging time in altricial birds.

Research articles


2023-10-23 — Updated on 2023-12-28


How to Cite

Dubiec, A., & Mazgajski, T. (2023). Assessing timing of fledging in a cavity-nesting passerine using temperature data loggers. Ornis Fennica, 100(3), 123–134. (Original work published October 23, 2023)