Variation in breeding phenology in response to climate change in two passerine species

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Increasingly warmer springs have caused phenological shifts in both plants and animals. In birds, it is well established that mean laying date has advanced to match the earlier food peak. We know less about changes in the distribution of egg-laying dates within a population and the environmental variables that determine this variation. This could be an important component of how populations respond to climate change. We, therefore, used laying date and environmental data from 39 years (1983–2021) to determine how climate change affected laying date variation in blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and marsh tits (Poecile palustris), two sympatric passerines with different life histories. Both species advanced mean laying date (0.19–0.24 days per year) and mean laying date showed a negative relationship with maximum spring temperature in both blue and marsh tits. In springs with no clear temperature increase during the critical time window (the time-window in which mean laying date was most sensitive to temperature) start of breeding in blue tits was distributed over a longer part of the season. However, there was no such pattern in marsh tits. Our findings suggest that temperature change, and not necessarily absolute temperature, can shape the variation in breeding phenology in a species-specific manner, possibly linked to variation in life-history strategies. This is an important consideration when predicting how climate change affects timing of breeding within a population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-285
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology
  • Zoology


  • Breeding phenology
  • Breeding season length
  • Climate change
  • Laying date
  • Life history


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