Effects of Sitka spruce masting on phenology and demography of siskins Spinus spinus

Furness, E. N. and Furness, R. W. (2021) Effects of Sitka spruce masting on phenology and demography of siskins Spinus spinus. Scientific Reports, 11, 4921. (doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-84471-8) (PMID:33649392) (PMCID:PMC7921583)

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Masting behaviour of Sitka spruce Picea sitchensis may influence Eurasian siskin Spinus spinus breeding ecology as breeding siskins specialize on spruce seeds. We caught siskins and other small passerines over 16 years using mist nets adjacent to large plantations of mature Sitka spruce. We sexed, aged, measured and weighed the birds and collected feather samples from fledglings to measure nitrogen and carbon stable isotope ratios. Siskins departed in late summer, and returned, and bred earlier in years of higher cone abundance. Nitrogen and carbon isotopes indicated that siskins fed their chicks on Sitka spruce seeds in most years, and more so in years of high cone production. More siskins were caught following heavy rainfall, when the cones had closed, encouraging the birds to seek alternative food sources. Fledglings were not heavier or larger in years with higher cone crops but were more numerous. However, the age ratio of siskins caught the following year was unaffected by cone crop. Given their reliance on Sitka spruce seeds, climate change may have a major impact on siskin numbers by altering the availability of Sitka spruce seeds, either through changes in masting patterns or cone opening, or due to climate-related changes in forestry practices. Siskins represent a valuable study system to conservation ecology, where a native species is ecologically reliant on introduced taxa.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/S007415/1).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Furness, Professor Robert
Authors: Furness, E. N., and Furness, R. W.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Scientific Reports
Publisher:Nature Research
ISSN (Online):2045-2322
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Scientific Reports 11: 4921
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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