Buffering artificial nest boxes for procellariiformes breeding in exposed habitats: Investigating effects on temperature and humidity

© The Ornithological Society of New Zealand Inc. The tendency of various species, including many Procellariiformes, to breed in sub-terrestrial burrows, complicates breeding biology studies. Artificial nest boxes facilitate detailed data collection, but may alter the buffering capacity of natural burrows, especially when these nests are exposed to direct sunlight (e.g., in non-forested habitats). We tested the buffering capacity of artificial nest boxes, equipped with additional insulating features, ex-situ in a non-forested sand dune in New Zealand. Specifically, we compared daily temperature (°C) and relative humidity (%) means, minima, and maxima between artificial nest boxes, Procellariiform burrow replicas, and ambient conditions sourced further inland using linear mixed effects models (LMMs), followed by post-hoc tests. Differences between artificial nest boxes and replicas were non-significant (P > 0.05). Our results thus showed that the applied insulating features were sufficient to retain the buffering capacities expected in natural burrows, even in exposed habitats such as sand dunes. Hence, we encourage the use of insulated artificial nest boxes in breeding biology studies targeting burrowing Procellariiformes (and other sub-terrestrially breeding species) in non-forested areas.