Intra-specific variation in nest-site preferences of Zebra Finches: do height and cover matter?
Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata) are distributed over most of Australia and have also been domesticated. Domestication in general has strong effects on various traits including reproduction. For successful reproduction choosing a suitable nest-site is essential. We focussed on two factors that might influence nest-site selection; height and cover. In two experiments, we investigated the nest-height and nest-cover preferences of five Zebra Finch populations (1 Australian, 4 domesticated). Our results revealed that all five populations preferred the highest nests and there were no differences between populations. With variation in nest-cover, the Australian birds and a less-selected domesticated population chose nests with cover, while birds from populations selected for specific plumage colourations used the open nest-boxes most. Nest-height preference seems to be conserved in domesticated birds, whereas preference for nest-cover seems to be modified during domestication. We discuss the intra-specific variation in nest-site preferences, in the light of evolutionary and domestication processes. We believe that this further understanding in nest-site preference can provide hints to understand the variation in breeding success of Zebra Finches across different experiments and laboratories.