How some birds are responding to climate change

Apr 11, 2019

ONE OF THE great concerns that ornithologists have is that climate change will throw the nesting activities of birds out of sync with the availability of food for the raising of chicks. For one species, the pied flycatcher, a new study shows that some of its clan are proving to be remarkably adaptable.

Upon returning to Europe from their African wintering grounds, the flycatchers time their egg-laying to the short period when juicy caterpillars are most abundant. During the past three decades this caterpillar peak has advanced by three weeks. Pied flycatchers initially had difficulty adjusting, but over time have started laying their eggs earlier to grab the caterpillars. Some, though, are doing a lot more to improve their reproductive chances of success, according to a study in the Journal of Avian Biology led by Christiaan Both of the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands.

Like most bird species, pied flycatchers have long been thought to lay a single clutch of eggs during the breeding season. This was widely considered to be a trait that does not change. Then, in 2007, a Swiss team led by Pierre-Alain Ravussin began to suspect that clutch numbers were flexible. They discovered a female pied flycatcher that immediately produced a second brood with a new male after raising an early set of...

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