Leafing phenology and timing of egg laying in great tits Parus major and blue tits P-caeruleus

Jan-Åke Nilsson, Hans Källander

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29 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

To evaluate the importance of tree leafing for the start of laying and clutch size of birds, we compared the breeding phenology of great tits Parus major and blue tits P. caeruleus between one coastal and two inland sites in the same geographical region. Because of the cooling influence of the sea, trees at the coastal site were known to initiate budburst about a week later than at the inland sites. During 5 years, breeding by the tits and the leaf phenology of birch Betula pendula, and oak Quercus robur were monitored. The leaf phenology of birch and oak explained a significant part of the between-year variation in the start of egg laying in blue and great tits, respectively. The tits started laying earlier at the sites with an early budburst, i.e. normally inland. However, leaf phenology was not an absolute cue to the start of laying, since blue tits laid earlier relative to leafing at the inland site than at the coastal site, and both tit species laid eggs earlier relative to leafing during late springs. In neither species was clutch size affected by leafing phenology. However, great tit females at the coastal site consistently produced fewer eggs than did those at the inland site. No such difference was found in the blue tits. Although leafing phenology may predict the start of laying in tits, other factors also influence its timing. These factors might include other cues, or differing life-history trade-offs depending on site or general climatic factors during the spring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-363
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences

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