Submitted by on Wed, 18/05/2016 - 15:54
The timing of great tit egg-laying can be predicted one year in advance according to new research published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
The research team, led by Dr Shelley Hinsley from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, studied a temperate woodland bird species, the great tit (Parus major), breeding in deciduous woodland in eastern England and demonstrated a relationship between the onset of egg laying and the winter index of the North Atlantic Oscillation. They concluded that the onset of egg laying can be predicted from the winter index for the previous year.
Dr Hinsley said, “It is well known that many bird species, including great tits, begin breeding activity earlier in warmer springs. However, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that a relationship with climate has been shown to enable prediction of the likely timing of breeding one year in advance. Although our results are for the date of egg laying in great tits, the prediction can be applied to spring phenology in general (in eastern England at least) because earlier breeding activity in warmer springs is related to temperature-dependent development of vegetation and invertebrate food supplies.”
The scientists looked at three areas in Cambridgeshire in eastern England, Monks Wood National Nature Reserve, Brampton Wood, a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, and Wennington Wood (privately owned), recording breeding using nest boxes. Timing of breeding was recorded for 23 years from 1993 to 2015.