Nestling diet and parental food provisioning in a declining mountain passerine reveal high sensitivity to climate change

Barras, Arnaud G.; Niffenegger, Carole A.; Candolfi, Ivan; Hunziker, Yannick A.; Arlettaz, Raphaël (2021). Nestling diet and parental food provisioning in a declining mountain passerine reveal high sensitivity to climate change. Journal of avian biology, 52(2) Wiley 10.1111/jav.02649

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Mountain ecosystems naturally experience strong seasonal weather variations leading to a brief peak in food availability that constrains bird reproduction. Climate change accentuates both the intra- and interannual weather variability, which in turn can reduce the predictability of food resources and hence impact population demography. Yet, relatively little is known about the influence of environmental factors on the breeding ecology of mountain birds. Here, we quantified the nestling diet and provisioning behaviour of the Alpine Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus alpestris), an emblematic and declining thrush species typical of central European treeline ecotones, and relate these parameters to local weather conditions. Nests were monitored with camcorders to assess prey provisioning frequency and identify items delivered by parents to nestlings, as well as to estimate prey biomass. Our results indicate the prominence of earthworms (Lumbricidae) in the nestling diet, both in terms of abundance (80%) and biomass (90%). Elevated ambient temperatures negatively impacted both prey provisioning rates and biomass delivered to chicks by parents, while rainfall had a positive effect on the delivered biomass. The mean prey item biomass decreased throughout the breeding season, as did the proportion of earthworms in nestlings’ diet. These findings highlight the key role played by local weather in parental provisioning behaviour, probably reflecting the low availability of the staple food source, earthworms, in warm and dry weather contexts. In particular, they underpin how climate alterations, notably increasing ambient temperatures and changing precipitation regimes, could impact mountain birds. Although effects on reproductive performance and population dynamics still ought to be studied, these results further our understanding of the ecological mechanisms potentially at play in the decline of wildlife inhabiting high-elevation, climate-sensitive ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Conservation Biology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Barras, Arnaud Gian; Niffenegger, Carole Andrea; Candolfi, Ivan Federico Mario; Hunziker, Yannick Aaron and Arlettaz, Raphaël

Subjects:

500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

0908-8857

Publisher:

Wiley

Language:

English

Submitter:

Arnaud Gian Barras

Date Deposited:

25 Feb 2021 16:59

Last Modified:

26 Feb 2021 01:35

Publisher DOI:

10.1111/jav.02649

BORIS DOI:

10.48350/152662

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/152662

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