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Breeding success of dispersing pied flycatchers: an experimental approach

Brouwer, Koen (2019) Breeding success of dispersing pied flycatchers: an experimental approach. Research Project 2, Biology.


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The spring phenologies of many species are increasingly early due to rising spring temperatures. Different species tend to shift the timing of their spring phenology at different paces resulting in ecological interactions becoming unsynchronized. An example of such an interaction is the breeding timing of the pied flycatcher, a long range migrant bird. Research in the Netherlands has shown that the spring phenology of caterpillars is shifting faster than the breeding timing of the pied flycatchers that feed on these caterpillars. As a result, the pied flycatchers breed relatively late compared to their prey abundance leading to lower reproductive success. This study aimed to determine whether pied flycatchers can compensate for this timing mismatch by dispersing northward, where the spring phenology of caterpillars is later. Female Dutch pied flycatchers were translocated to Sweden where they bred with local Swedish males. Local Swedish females were translocated within the area as controls. Clutch size, number of fledglings and body mass of chicks were measured as variables of breeding success. Dutch birds laid their eggs earlier and sooner after release than Swedish control birds, however no difference in breeding success was found between Dutch and Swedish birds. We can therefore not provide evidence that dispersing northward increases breeding success of pied flycatchers. Possible explanations for the absence of such an effect are that the Dutch birds experienced high levels of stress due to the experiment and had no local adaptations or experience in their new area in Sweden, an area which has a different, less seasonal food supply than the Netherlands. Still, possible advantages of northward dispersal may arise in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 2)
Supervisor nameSupervisor E mail
Degree programme: Biology
Thesis type: Research Project 2
Language: English
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2019
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2019 11:01

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