Nest building effort has received scant attention in the literature although it may involve costs which can be detected as physiological stress. We prolonged nest construction effort in a population of Spanish Pied Flycatchers by removing nests from nest-boxes and forcing females to build a second nest. In comparison with control nests, the experimental females had to work for longer periods and accumulate more nest material, but nest construction rates (g of nest material per day of construction) were not affected. There was a positive association of clutch mass with nest construction rate. To measure physiological stress, we captured females shortly after laying to obtain blood samples for heat-shock protein quantification. Heat-shock proteins quantify stress at cell level. The level of HSP60 in peripheral blood was positively associated with total nest construction rate (including second nests for experimental females), but not with laying date, clutch mass or experimental treatment. A third of the variation in the HSP60 level was explained by the nest construction rate. Fast nest builders are physiologically stressed, suggesting that the nest construction rate may constitute an index of female physiological performance.
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