Animals in seasonal environments need to fit their annual-cycle stages, such as moult and migration, in a tight schedule. Climate change affects the phenology of organisms and causes advancements in timing of these annual-cycle stages but not necessarily at the same rates. For migratory birds, this can lead to more severe or more relaxed time constraints in the time from fledging to migration, depending on the relative shifts of the different stages. We tested how a shift in hatch date, which has advanced due to climate change, impacts the organization of the birds' whole annual cycle. We experimentally advanced and delayed the hatch date of pied flycatcher chicks in the field and then measured the timing of their annual-cycle stages in a controlled laboratory environment. Hatch date affected the timing of moult and pre-migratory fattening, but not migration. Early-born birds hence had a longer time to fatten up than late-born ones; the latter reduced their interval between onset of fattening and migration to be able to migrate at the same time as the early-born birds. This difference in time constraints for early- and late-born individuals may explain why early-born offspring have a higher probability to recruit as a breeding bird. Climate change-associated advancements of avian egg-lay dates, which in turn advances hatch dates, can thus reduce the negative fitness consequences of reproducing late, thereby reducing the selection for early egg-laying migratory birds.
|Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
|Published - 2016