The impact of increased food availability on reproduction in a long-distance migratory songbird: implications for environmental change?

Seward, A. M., Beale, C. M., Gilbert, L. , Jones, T. H. and Thomas, R. J. (2014) The impact of increased food availability on reproduction in a long-distance migratory songbird: implications for environmental change? PLoS ONE, 9(10), e111180. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111180) (PMID:25333485) (PMCID:PMC4205087)

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Abstract

Many populations of migratory songbirds are declining or shifting in distribution. This is likely due to environmental changes that alter factors such as food availability that may have an impact on survival and/or breeding success. We tested the impact of experimentally supplemented food on the breeding success over three years of northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), a species in decline over much of Europe. The number of offspring fledged over the season was higher for food-supplemented birds than for control birds. The mechanisms for this effect were that food supplementation advanced breeding date, which, together with increased resources, allowed further breeding attempts. While food supplementation did not increase the clutch size, hatching success or number of chicks fledged per breeding attempt, it did increase chick size in one year of the study. The increased breeding success was greater for males than females; males could attempt to rear simultaneous broods with multiple females as well as attempting second broods, whereas females could only increase their breeding effort via second broods. Multiple brooding is rare in the study population, but this study demonstrates the potential for changes in food availability to affect wheatear breeding productivity, primarily via phenotypic flexibility in the number of breeding attempts. Our results have implications for our understanding of how wheatears may respond to natural changes in food availability due to climate changes or changes in habitat management.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gilbert, Dr Lucy
Authors: Seward, A. M., Beale, C. M., Gilbert, L., Jones, T. H., and Thomas, R. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1932-6203
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Published Online:21 October 2014
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Seward et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 9(10):e111180
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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