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Warming climate advances breeding and improves synchrony of food demand and food availability in a boreal passerine


Emma Vatka, tel. +358 8 553 1217, fax +358 8 553 1061, e-mail:


Global climate change affects ecosystems via several trophic levels. We investigated changes in the timing of breeding in the willow tit (Poecile montanus) and timing of its caterpillar food resource in relation to warming springs in a boreal forest. We used generalized linear mixed effect models to study the importance of synchrony between the timing of breeding in willow tits and the caterpillar food availability on the breeding success, measured as nestling survival rate and mean nestling weight. Both the timing of breeding and the timing of the caterpillar peak advanced during the last decades, and were well explained by spring temperatures. Unlike in most passerine populations studied, synchrony has improved with rising spring temperatures. However, it had only a modest although statistically significant positive influence on breeding success. Spring temperatures do not seem to be used as cues for the timing of caterpillar food availability by willow tits. We conclude that responses to climatic warming seem to be population, species and habitat specific, necessitating research in a wide range of taxa in different climatic zones.