- With spring coming earlier due to climate change, leaves and caterpillars emerge earlier and birds need to breed earlier to avoid being mismatched. Researchers in England found that the earlier the spring, the less able birds are to do this.
April 23, 2018 University of Exeter Read full ScienceDaily article here
Warmer springs create a “mismatch” where hungry chicks hatch too late to feast on abundant caterpillars, new research shows.
With continued spring warming expected due to climate change, scientists say hatching of forest birds will be “increasingly mismatched” with peaks in caterpillar numbers.
The researchers, from the RSPB and the universities of Exeter and Edinburgh, used data collected across the UK — largely by citizen scientists — to study spring emergence of oak tree leaves and caterpillars, and timing of nesting by three bird species: blue tits, great tits and pied flycatchers….
…”Forests have a short peak in caterpillar abundance, and some forest birds time their breeding so this coincides with the time when their chicks are hungriest,” said Dr Malcolm Burgess, of the University of Exeter and the RSPB. “With spring coming earlier due to climate change, leaves and caterpillars emerge earlier and birds need to breed earlier to avoid being mismatched.
“We found that the earlier the spring, the less able birds are to do this. The biggest mismatch was among pied flycatchers — as migratory birds, they are not in the UK in winter and therefore are much less able to respond to earlier spring weather.”…
Malcolm D. Burgess, Ken W. Smith, Karl L. Evans, Dave Leech, James W. Pearce-Higgins, Claire J. Branston, Kevin Briggs, John R. Clark, Chris R. du Feu, Kate Lewthwaite, Ruedi G. Nager, Ben C. Sheldon, Jeremy A. Smith, Robin C. Whytock, Stephen G. Willis, Albert B. Phillimore. Tritrophic phenological match–mismatch in space and time. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0543-1