Changes in spring arrival of Nearctic-Neotropical migrants attributed to multiscalar climate


Dena P. MacMynowski, tel. +1 650 619 9342, fax +1 650 725 1992, e-mail:


Climate-related changes associated with the California marine ecosystem have been documented; however, there are no studies assessing changes in terrestrial vertebrate phenology on the Pacific coast of western North America. We analyze the spring phenology of 21 Nearctic-Neotropical migratory songbird species in central and northern CA. Using observational and banding data at multiple sites, we evaluate evidence for a change in arrival timing being linked to either nonclimatic or multiscalar climatic explanations. Using correlation analysis, of the 13 species with a significant (P<0.10) change in arrival, the arrival timing of 10 species (77%) is associated with both temperature and a large-scale climate oscillation index (El Niño Southern Oscillation, ENSO; North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO; and/or Pacific Decadal Oscillation, PDO) at least at one location. Eight of the 13 species (62%) are advancing their migratory timing. All species for which spring arrival is associated with climate at multiple locations are exhibiting changes (n=5) and all species lacking evidence for association between migration phenology and climate (n=3) exhibit no change. Migrants tend to arrive earlier in association with warmer temperatures, positive NAO indices, and stronger ENSO indices. Twelve species negatively correlate (P≤0.05) with local or regional temperature at least at one location; five species negatively correlate with ENSO. Eleven species' arrival is correlated (P≤0.05) with NAO; 10 are negatively associated. After an exhaustive literature search, this is apparently the first documentation of an association between NAO and migratory phenology in western North America.