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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • clutch size;
  • Parus caeruleus;
  • Parus major;
  • timing of breeding;
  • winter NAO-index

Abstract

Increasing evidence suggests that climate change has consequences on avian breeding phenology. Here, variations in laying date and clutch size of great tit Parus major and blue tit Parus caeruleus within and between breeding populations through the western Palaearctic are examined in relation to climatic fluctuations, measured by the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index. Within and across breeding sites, laying date was related to winter-NAO index such that great and blue tit females lay earlier after warmer, moister winters (positive values of winter NAO-index). The present study shows that for most populations there is an advancement of laying date, but the rate of change with respect to NAO significantly differed geographically across the western Palaearctic and did not differ between species. However, clutch size of great and blue tits was not affected by climatic fluctuations, presumably because the whole season is being shifted, but not in relation to food supplies. These combined analyses for the two species controlled for potentially confounding variables such as latitude, longitude, elevation and habitat of each study site.