To make the most of what we have: extracting phenological data from nestling measurements
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To study the ecological and evolutionary effects of climate change on timing of annual events, scientists need access to data that have been collected over long time periods. High-quality long-term phenology data are rare and costly to obtain and there is therefore a need to extract this information from other available data sets. Many long-term studies on breeding birds include detailed information on individually marked parents and offspring, but do not include information on timing of breeding. Here, we demonstrate how a study of repeated standard measurements of white-throated dipper Cinclus cinclus nestlings in our study system in southernmost Norway can be used for modeling nestling growth, and how this statistical model can be used to estimate timing of breeding for birds with sparser data. We also evaluate how the accuracies of nestling growth models based on different morphological traits (mass and feather length) differ depending on the nestling age, present user guidelines and demonstrate how they can be applied to an independent data set. In conclusion, the approach presented is likely to be useful for a wide variety of species, even if the preferred measurement may differ between species.