Climate change, migratory connectivity and changes in laying date and clutch size of the pied flycatcher

Toni Laaksonen, Markus Ahola, Tapio Eeva, Risto A Väisänen, Esa Lehikoinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


We examined long-term (1943-2003) variability in laying dates and clutch sizes in a Finnish population of the pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Pallas, and analysed whether potential changes were explained by changes in climatic factors at the wintering area in Africa, at migration route or at breeding grounds. Among-year variation in both mean and skewness of laying dates increased, which for mean laying date appeared to be explained by variability of temperatures at the breeding grounds and for skewness by variable temperature trends along the migration route. Pied flycatchers bred earlier in warm springs, but despite a warming trend in pre-laying temperatures, the laying dates tended to delay. Laying dates became continuously later in relation to the phenology of the environment. Mean clutch size decreased with time when mean laying date was controlled for, but the climatic factors did not appear to explain the decrease. The advancement of spring phenology may have shifted some food sources needed for egg-laying, thus leading to later laying and smaller clutches. Variation in clutch size increased when wintering conditions were favourable so that clutch size distribution was skewed with a tail of small clutches when there had been lot of rainfall (more vegetation and insects) in the wintering area. We suggest that when ecological conditions during winter were good, the tail of small clutches represented low-quality individuals that were not able to breed after bad winters. Our analyses demonstrate that measures of spread and symmetry give different information about population level changes than means, and thus complement the understanding of the potential influences of climate change on populations.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)277-290
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2006
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 118 Biological sciences

Cite this