Climate change and population declines in a long-distance migratory bird

Nature. 2006 May 4;441(7089):81-3. doi: 10.1038/nature04539.


Phenological responses to climate change differ across trophic levels, which may lead to birds failing to breed at the time of maximal food abundance. Here we investigate the population consequences of such mistiming in the migratory pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca. In a comparison of nine Dutch populations, we find that populations have declined by about 90% over the past two decades in areas where the food for provisioning nestlings peaks early in the season and the birds are currently mistimed. In areas with a late food peak, early-breeding birds still breed at the right time, and there is, at most, a weak population decline. If food phenology advances further, we also predict population declines in areas with a late food peak, as in these areas adjustment to an advanced food peak is insufficient. Mistiming as a result of climate change is probably a widespread phenomenon, and here we provide evidence that it can lead to population declines.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration*
  • Animals
  • Food*
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology*
  • Netherlands
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Time Factors