What prevents phenological adjustment to climate change in migrant bird species? Evidence against the “arrival constraint” hypothesis
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- Goodenough, A.E., Hart, A.G. & Elliot, S.L. Int J Biometeorol (2011) 55: 97. doi:10.1007/s00484-010-0312-6
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Phenological studies have demonstrated changes in the timing of seasonal events across multiple taxonomic groups as the climate warms. Some northern European migrant bird populations, however, show little or no significant change in breeding phenology, resulting in synchrony with key food sources becoming mismatched. This phenological inertia has often been ascribed to migration constraints (i.e. arrival date at breeding grounds preventing earlier laying). This has been based primarily on research in The Netherlands and Germany where time between arrival and breeding is short (often as few as 9 days). Here, we test the arrival constraint hypothesis over a 15-year period for a U.K. pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) population where laying date is not constrained by arrival as the period between arrival and breeding is substantial and consistent (average 27 ± 4.57 days SD). Despite increasing spring temperatures and quantifiably stronger selection for early laying on the basis of number of offspring to fledge, we found no significant change in breeding phenology, in contrast with co-occurring resident blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus). We discuss possible non-migratory constraints on phenological adjustment, including limitations on plasticity, genetic constraints and competition, as well as the possibility of counter-selection pressures relating to adult survival, longevity or future reproductive success. We propose that such factors need to be considered in conjunction with the arrival constraint hypothesis.