Breeding and Feeding Cycles in Great and Blue Tits
Matthysen, E., Adriaensen, F. and Dhondt, A.A. 2011. Multiple responses to increasing spring temperatures in the breeding cycle of blue and great tits (Cyanistes caeruleus, Parus major). Global Change Biology 17: 1-16.
Specifically, Matthysen et al., as they describe it, "studied the breeding cycle of two sympatric and closely related species, the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus and the great tit Parus major in a rich oak-beech forest," where they had collected data on the breeding biology of blue and great tits from 1979 to 2007 in a 12-hectare plot provided with nest boxes inside the Peerdsbos forest near Antwerp, Belgium.
Results indicated that both bird species "advanced their mean first-egg dates by 11-12 days over the last three decades," and that "the time from first egg to fledging has shortened by 2-3 days, through a decrease in laying interruptions, incubation time and nestling development time." As a consequence, they say "the average time of fledging has advanced by 15.4 and 18.6 days for blue and great tits, respectively, and variance in fledging dates has decreased by 70-75%." Most important of all, they note that "indirect estimates of the food peak suggest that both species have maintained synchronization with the food supply," and they state that "analyses of within-individual variation show that most of the change can be explained by individual plasticity in laying date, fledging date and nest time."
Concluding their paper, Matthysen et al. emphasize that "synchronization of the nestling period with the food supply not only depends on first-egg dates but also on additional reproductive parameters including laying interruptions, incubation time and nestling growth rate." And as a result of adjustments in these several related phenomena, they report that "both of our study species have been able to maintain synchrony with their food supply in the face of global warming."
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