Managing time in a changing world: Timing of avian annual cycle stages under climate change

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD thesis


Animals need to time their seasonal activities such as breeding and migration to occur at the right time. They use cues from the environment to predict changes and organise their activities accordingly. What happens, then, when climate change interferes with this ability to make predictions? Climate change advances the timing of annual cycle stages, but these shifts may vary among stages. This could interfere with the ability of organisms to organise their entire annual cycle as it modifies the time available for each stage.

We investigated the causes and consequences of unequal shifts in the timing of annual cycle stages of the European pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca). These birds perform a long distance migration from western Africa (where they winter) to Europe (where they breed) and back, staying less than five months in Europe. In this interval, they must fit the important breeding and moult stages, as well as the transition between arriving and breeding and the preparation for the next migration.

Timing of arrival breeding and moult changed at different rates in response to climate change, this resulted in a shorter time between arrival and breeding and breeding and moult. Thus climate change has the effect of relaxing time pressures in some cases while tightening it in others. The costs of these shifts, however, varied according to the sex or life stage of the animal. Therefore, for a broader understanding of the ecological consequences of climate change, different stages of the annual cycle should be considered, in particular for organisms with complex cycles.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Visser, Marcel E., Promotor
  • Beersma, Domien G. M., Promotor, External person
Award date16 Jun 2017
Print ISBNs978-94-6332-181-5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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