Climate change may account for the decline in British ring ouzels Turdus torquatus


and present address: Colin M. Beale, The Macaulay Institute, Cragiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB15 8QH, UK. Tel.: +44(0)1224 498200, ext. 2427. E-mail:


  • 1Climate change is already affecting biodiversity, but the number of species for which reliable models relate weather and climate to demographic parameters is low.
  • 2We modelled the effect of temperature and rainfall on the breeding success and territory occupancy of ring ouzels Turdus torquatus (L.) in northern Britain, using data from a range of study areas, including one where there was a long-term decline in ring ouzel abundance.
  • 3Timing of breeding was significantly related to meteorological variables affecting birds in the early spring, though there was no evidence that laying dates had advanced. Breeding success was not significantly related to weather variables; instead, over 90% of annual variation in this parameter could be explained by density dependence.
  • 4Annual change in territory occupancy was linked to rainfall and temperature the preceding summer, after the main breeding season and to rainfall in the wintering grounds 24 months previously, coincident with the period of juniper Juniperus sp. (L.) flowering. High temperature in late summer, intermediate levels of late summer rainfall, and high spring rainfall in Morocco 24 months previously all had negative impacts on territory occupancy the following year.
  • 5All three weather variables have changed over recent decades, with a significant increase in summer temperature, a significant decrease in summer rainfall, and a nonsignificant decline in Moroccan spring rainfall. A model based on these trends alone predicted an annual decline in occupancy of 3·6% (compared with an observed decline of 1·2%), and suggested that increased summer temperatures may underlie declines in the British ring ouzel population.
  • 6Changes in summer temperature after the main breeding period could affect the survival rates of adult and/or juvenile birds. An improved understanding of the post-breeding ecology of ring ouzels is required to elucidate the mechanisms and causes of this relationship. Such knowledge might allow management aimed at buffering the impacts of climate change on ring ouzels.