Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Climate Change Causes Birds to Lay Eggs Earlier: UK Study

A growing body of research is revealing that climate change is affecting birds in many different ways. Last month on this blog, Sarah wrote about a study in Global Change Biology that provided more evidence that birds migrating to or through the eastern U.S. are arriving earlier to correspond to optimal food and habitat conditions like insect emergence and leaf budding, which occur earlier in the spring as the climate warms.

Now, yet another study has added to our understanding, this one out of the UK., where British birds are apparently laying their eggs earlier in the year as a result of climate change. From The Herald:

The report said birds were being forced to rapidly adapt their behaviour in order to survive, including altering their nesting and migration patterns and travelling further to find food.

Work carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) surveying 30,000 nests showed species such as the chaffinch and robin are laying their eggs about a week earlier than they did during the 1960s.

A similar pattern has been observed for other species such as blue and great tits and swallows.

There are concerns that disruption of the natural patterns in the birds' egg-laying could mean they are out of sync with the emergence of the food sources on which they feed their young, such as caterpillars.

Dr Mark Avery, conservation director for the RSPB, one of the groups involved in the study, said: "This year's report shows that climate change is with us already, and from our gardens to our seas, birds are having to respond rapidly to climate change simply to survive."
(Photo: Chaffinch, by Sue Tranter, RSPB)

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