Vol. 44, No. 2
David M. Larson
Wood Thrush. Photograph by Sandy Selesky.
Have you ever thought about what birds do at night? I’m not talking about nocturnal owls and nightjars, but your average diurnal songbird. Well, they sleep. In fact, they sleep soundly. In the tropics on a night prowl with a headlamp, it is possible to walk right up and pluck a sleeping bird off a branch. And what is possible for tourists is possible for nocturnal predators. So, it seems that understanding where birds decide to sleep (roost) is actually an important part of understanding bird ecology, management, and conservation. We do know something about this topic, but mostly from studies on cavity-nesting species like woodpeckers. Turns out that most ornithologists are diurnal, too.
Jirinec and colleagues (2016) recently reported on an extensive study on the day and night activities of Wood Thrushes on their breeding grounds in coastal Virginia. Since Wood Thrushes are declining, the more we know about this species, the better we can craft conservation policies. The authors sought to determine if birds roosted in their daytime breeding territories, if birds selected roost sites of higher vegetation density (more cover), and if roosting locations varied with nesting status.