The effects of climate change on the phenology of winter birds in Yokohama, Japan
Observations made largely from summer breeding sites in Europe and North America have been used to document the effects of climate change on many bird species. We extend these studies by examining 23 years of observations between 1986 and 2008 of six winter bird species made by citizens at a city park in Yokohama, Japan. Bird species arrive in autumn and spend the winter in the area, before departing in the late winter or spring. On average, birds species are arriving 9 days later than in the past and are departing on average 21 days earlier, meaning that the average duration of their stay in Yokohama is about 1 month shorter now than in the past. Patterns of changes over time varied among species, but departure dates changed for more species than did arrival dates. Dates of departure and arrival were sometimes correlated with monthly average temperatures—later arrivals and earlier departures were associated with warmer temperatures. In addition, interannual variation in arrival and departure dates were strongly correlated across species, suggesting that species were responding to the same or similar environmental cues. This study provides a clear demonstration of the value of using citizens to make observations that contribute to research in climate change biology.