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  1. Changes in phenology in response to ongoing climate change have been observed in numerous taxa around the world. Differing rates of phenological shifts across trophic levels have led to concerns that ecological interactions may become increasingly decoupled in time, with potential negative consequences for populations. Despite widespread evidence of phenological change and a broad body of supporting theory, large-scale multitaxa evidence for demographic consequences of phenological asynchrony remains elusive. Using data from a continental-scale bird-banding program, we assess the impact of phenological dynamics on avian breeding productivity in 41 species of migratory and resident North American birds breeding in and around forested areas. We find strong evidence for a phenological optimum where breeding productivity decreases in years with both particularly early or late phenology and when breeding occurs early or late relative to local vegetation phenology. Moreover, we demonstrate that landbird breeding phenology did not keep pace with shifts in the timing of vegetation green-up over a recent 18-y period, even though avian breeding phenology has tracked green-up with greater sensitivity than arrival for migratory species. Species whose breeding phenology more closely tracked green-up tend to migrate shorter distances (or are resident over the entire year) and breed earlier inmore »the season. These results showcase the broadest-scale evidence yet of the demographic impacts of phenological change. Future climate change–associated phenological shifts will likely result in a decrease in breeding productivity for most species, given that bird breeding phenology is failing to keep pace with climate change.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 11, 2024
  2. Males, Jamie (Ed.)
    Mountains hold much of the world’s taxonomic diversity, but global climate change threatens this diversity by altering the distributions of montane species. While numerous studies have documented upslope shifts in elevational ranges, these patterns are highly variable across geographic regions and taxa. This variation in how species’ range shifts are manifesting along elevational gradients likely reflects the diversity of mechanisms that determines elevational ranges and modulates movements, and stands in contrast to latitudinal gradients, where range shifts show less variability and appear more predictable. Here, we review observed elevational range shifts in a single taxonomic group–birds–a group that has received substantial research attention and thus provides a useful context for exploring variability in range shifts while controlling for the mechanisms that drive range shifts across broader taxonomic groups. We then explore the abiotic and biotic factors that are known to define elevational ranges, as well as the constraints that may prevent birds from shifting. Across the literature, temperature is generally invoked as the prime driver of range shifts while the role of precipitation is more neglected. However, temperature is less likely to act directly on elevational ranges, instead mediating biotic factors such as habitat and food availability, predator activity, andmore »parasite prevalence, which could in turn modulate range shifts. Dispersal ability places an intrinsic constraint on elevational range shifts, exacerbated by habitat fragmentation. While current research provides strong evidence for the importance of various drivers of elevational ranges and shifts, testing the relative importance of these factors and achieving a more holistic view of elevational gradients will require integration of expanding datasets, novel technologies, and innovative techniques.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 14, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Rare birds known as “accidentals” or “vagrants” have long captivated birdwatchers and puzzled biologists, but the drivers of these rare occurrences remain elusive. Errors in orientation or navigation are considered one potential driver: migratory birds use the Earth’s magnetic field—sensed using specialized magnetoreceptor structures—to traverse long distances over often unfamiliar terrain. Disruption to these magnetoreceptors or to the magnetic field itself could potentially cause errors leading to vagrancy. Using data from 2 million captures of 152 landbird species in North America over 60 years, we demonstrate a strong association between disruption to the Earth’s magnetic field and avian vagrancy during fall migration. Furthermore, we find that increased solar activity—a disruptor of the avian magnetoreceptor—generally counteracts this effect, potentially mitigating misorientation by disabling the ability for birds to use the magnetic field to orient. Our results link a hypothesized cause of misorientation to the phenomenon of avian vagrancy, further demonstrating the importance of magnetoreception among the orientation mechanisms of migratory birds. Geomagnetic disturbance may have important downstream ecological consequences, as vagrants may experience increased mortality rates or facilitate range expansions of avian populations and the organisms they disperse.

  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Rapid advances in the field of movement ecology have led to increasing insight into both the population‐level abundance patterns and individual‐level behaviour of migratory species. Despite this progress, research questions that require scaling individual‐level understanding of the behaviour of migrating organisms to the population level remain difficult to investigate.

    To bridge this gap, we introduce a generalizable framework for training full‐annual cycle individual‐based models of migratory movements by combining information from tracking studies and species occurrence records. Focusing on migratory birds, we call this method: Models of Individual Movement of Avian Species (MIMAS). We implement MIMAS to design individual‐based models of avian migration that are trained using previously published weekly occurrence maps and fit via Approximate Bayesian Computation.

    MIMAS models leverage individual‐ and population‐level information to faithfully represent continental‐scale migration patterns. Models can be trained successfully for species even when little existing individual‐level data is available for parameterization by relying on population‐level information. In contrast to existing mathematical models of migration, MIMAS explicitly represents and estimates behavioural attributes of migrants. MIMAS can additionally be used to simulate movement over consecutive migration seasons, and models can be easily updated or validated as new empirical data on migratory behaviours becomes available.

    MIMAS can bemore »applied to a variety of research questions that require representing individual movement at large scales. We demonstrate three applied uses for MIMAS: estimating population‐specific migratory phenology, predicting the spatial patterns and magnitude of ectoparasite dispersal by migrants, and simulating the spread of a pathogen across the annual cycle of a migrant species. Currently, MIMAS can easily be used to build models for hundreds of migratory landbird species but can also be adapted in the future to build models of other types of migratory animals.

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  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023

    Hummingbirds, a highly diverse avian family, are specialized vertebrate pollinators that feed upon carbohydrate-rich nectar to fuel their fast metabolism while consuming invertebrates to obtain protein. Previous work has found that morphologically diverse hummingbird communities exhibit higher diet specialization on floral resources than morphologically similar hummingbird communities. Due to the difficulties of studying avian diets, we have little understanding whether hummingbirds show similar patterns with their invertebrate prey. Here, we use DNA metabarcoding to analyze floral and invertebrate diets of 3 species of sympatric North American hummingbirds. We collected fecal samples from 89 Anna’s (Calypte anna), 39 Black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri), and 29 Calliope (Selasphorus calliope) hummingbirds in urban and rural localities as well as across an elevational gradient from sea level to 2,500 meters above sea level in California, USA. We found hummingbirds showed high dietary overlap in both invertebrate and plant resources, with few invertebrate and plant families common to most individuals and many families found in only a few individuals. Chironomidae was the most common invertebrate family across all species, and Rosaceae and Orobanchaceae were the most common plant families. Anna’s Hummingbirds had significantly higher invertebrate diet diversity than Black-chinned Hummingbirds when found at the same sites,more »but we found no difference in plant diet diversity among any of the 3 species. Hummingbirds in urban sites had higher plant diet diversity than in rural sites, but we found no effect of elevation on dietary richness. Our study shows how DNA metabarcoding can be used to non-invasively investigate previously unknown life-histories of well-studied birds, lending insight to community structure, function, and evolution.

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  8. Abstract

    Reports of declines in abundance and biomass of insects and other invertebrates from around the world have raised concerns about food limitation that could have profound impacts for insectivorous species. Food availability can clearly affect species; however, there is considerable variation among studies in whether this effect is evident, and thus a lack of clarity over the generality of the relationship. To understand how decreased food availability due to invertebrate declines will affect bird populations, we conducted a systematic review and used meta‐analytic structural equation modelling, which allowed us to treat our core variables of interest as latent variables estimated by the diverse ways in which researchers measure fecundity and chick body condition. We found a moderate positive effect of food availability on chick body condition and a strong positive effect on reproductive success. We also found a negative relationship between chick body condition and reproductive success. Our results demonstrate that food is generally a limiting factor for breeding songbirds. Our analysis also provides evidence for a consistent trade‐off between chick body condition and reproductive success, demonstrating the complexity of trophic dynamics important for these vital rates.

    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 16, 2024