The effect of climate change on the correlation between avian life history traits

C. Both, M.E. Visser

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

    167 Citations (Scopus)
    2 Downloads (Pure)


    The ultimate reason why birds should advance their phenology in response to climate change is to match the shifting phenology of underlying levels of the food chain. In a seasonal environment, the timing of food abundance is one of the crucial factors to which birds should adapt their timing of reproduction. They can do this by shifting egg-laying date (LD), and also by changing other life-history characters that affect the period between laying of the eggs and hatching of the chicks. In a long-term study of the migratory Pied Flycatcher, we show that the peak of abundance of nestling food (caterpillars) has advanced during the last two decades, and that the birds advanced their LD. LD strongly correlates with the timing of the caterpillar peak, but in years with an early food peak the birds laid their eggs late relative to this food peak. In such years, the birds advance their hatching date by incubating earlier in the clutch and reducing the interval between laying the last egg to hatching of the first egg, thereby partly compensating for their relative late LD. Paradoxically, they also laid larger clutches in the years with an early food peak, and thereby took more time to lay (i.e. one egg per day). Clutch size therefore declined more strongly with LD in years with an early food peak. This stronger response is adaptive because the fitness of an egg declined more strongly with date in early than in late years. Clearly, avian life-history traits are correlated and Pied Flycatchers apparently optimize over the whole complex of the traits including LD, clutch size and the onset of incubation. Climate change will lead to changing selection pressures on this complex of traits and presumably the way they are correlated. [KEYWORDS: climate change ; clutch size ; Ficedula hypoleuca ; food availability ; laying date]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1606-1613
    JournalGlobal Change Biology
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 2005




    Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of climate change on the correlation between avian life history traits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this