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Different responses to cold weather in two pied flycatcher populations

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We compared how breeding parameters differ according to prevailing weather conditions between a marginal, subarctic (69°N) and temperate (61°N) population of the pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, a small migratory insectivorous passerine. We predicted that the effects of weather on breeding performance (clutch size, hatching success, nestling growth, fledging success) would be greater at northern latitudes, where the weather conditions are more extreme and unpredictable. We found that the breeding parameters, except clutch size, were not, however, inferior in the north. Northern birds, unlike the southern ones, responded to colder conditions by laying smaller clutches and maintaining a larger energy reserve (indicated by higher female body mass and higher levels of subcutaneous fat). If a cold spell occurred during the nestling period, southern flycatchers had 5–10% lower fledging success than the northern ones. Our results indicate that in the north, the breeding individuals coped with cold and variable weather better than the individuals in the southern population. This could be adaptive, because at high latitudes there is a higher probability of cold weather at the time of breeding.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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