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Keywords:

  • birds;
  • phenology;
  • climate change;
  • migration;
  • caterpillars;
  • trophic

Abstract

Since 1912, Neotropical–Nearctic migrant birds may now have up to 20 fewer days to travel between Southern Illinois, where spring is arriving later, and Northern Minnesota, where spring is arriving earlier, to exploit optimal habitat conditions (expanding leaves and caterpillar activity) for refueling and breeding. As case studies of the effect of climate change on bird migration, I analyzed two long-term data sets of arrival times for eight species of northern breeding migratory wood warblers (Parulidae) gathered over a 100 year period in east-central Illinois (IL, USA) and a 40 year period in western Minnesota (MN, USA). Six (IL) and seven (MN) of the wood warbler species showed no significant tendency to migrate earlier in response to earlier springs in their breeding range. These results suggest that climate change may force many species of long-distance migratory songbirds to become uncoupled in the spring from their food resources that are driven by temperature.