We examined the control of body temperature during active and resting behaviors in chicks of a large precocial bird, the Greater Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica), growing in a cold Arctic environment. Imprinted goslings from 4 to 31 days old maintained their mean (± SD) body core temperature within a narrow range around 40.6 ± 0.2°C (range: 38.7–42.2°C), independently of changes in their thermal environment. Average body temperature increased <0.4°C between 4 and 31 days of age. Hypothermia, potentially an energy-saving mechanism, was not used by active goslings. The potential for heat loss to the environment influenced the length of resting bouts in wild goslings. As environmental temperature increased, wild goslings remained sitting alone for longer periods, whereas when it decreased, brooding behavior was prolonged. The time spent huddling increased with the number of goslings involved. Body temperature during huddling bouts measured in imprinted chicks was significantly lower than during periods of activity, showing a rapid decrease averaging 0.8°C at the onset of huddling, followed by a slow recovery before activity was resumed. Thus, huddling behavior was not used as a rewarming mechanism. Greater Snow Goose goslings appear to prioritize metabolic activity by maintaining a high body temperature, despite the high energy costs that may be involved. Social thermoregulation is used to reduce the energy costs entailed by the strict maintenance of homeothermy.
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Vol. 102 • No. 1