Climate change and the risks associated with delayed breeding in a tropical wild bird population
Senapathi, D., Nicoll, M., Teplitsky, C., Jones, C.G. and Norris, K. (2011) Climate change and the risks associated with delayed breeding in a tropical wild bird population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 278 (1722). pp. 3184-3190. ISSN 1471-2954
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0212
There is growing evidence of changes in the timing of important ecological events, such as flowering in plants and reproduction in animals, in response to climate change, with implications for population decline and biodiversity loss. Recent work has shown that the timing of breeding in wild birds is changing in response to climate change partly because individuals are remarkably flexible in their timing of breeding. Despite this work, our understanding of these processes in wild populations remains very limited and biased towards species from temperate regions. Here, we report the response to changing climate in a tropical wild bird population using a long-term dataset on a formerly critically endangered island endemic, the Mauritius kestrel. We show that the frequency of spring rainfall affects the timing of breeding, with birds breeding later in wetter springs. Delays in breeding have consequences in terms of reduced reproductive success as birds get exposed to risks associated with adverse climatic conditions later on in the breeding season, which reduce nesting success. These results, combined with the fact that frequency of spring rainfall has increased by about 60 per cent in our study area since 1962, imply that climate change is exposing birds to the stochastic risks of late reproduction by causing them to start breeding relatively late in the season.