Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smithsonian scientists find declining rainfall is a major influence for migrating birds

31.03.2011
Instinct and the annual increase of daylight hours have long been thought to be the triggers for birds to begin their spring migration. Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, however, have found that that may not be the case.

Researchers have focused on how warming trends in temperate breeding areas disrupt the sensitive ecology of migratory birds. This new research shows that changes in rainfall on the tropical wintering grounds could be equally disruptive. The team's findings are published in scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, today, March 30.

Many of the bird species that breed in the temperate forests, marshes and backyards of North America spend the winter months in the tropics of the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Insects are the primary food for many birds during the winter, and rainfall largely determines the amount of insects available. Climactic warming, however, is causing declining and more variable rainfall cycles in many areas, affecting the availability of insects and delaying when birds leave for their northern breeding grounds. To examine this, the Smithsonian scientists focused on American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla), a member of the warbler family, at a non-breeding site in Jamaica where they conduct long-term studies.

"American redstarts were a perfect species for this study since they defend exclusive territories throughout the non-breeding period until they depart for spring migration and most return back to the same territory the following year," said Pete Marra, research ecologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Migratory Bird Center. "These behaviors made it relatively easy to keep track of individual birds over multiple years and document changing spring departures. Each individual was fitted with a unique combination of colored leg bands."

Precipitation in Jamaica is highly seasonal, with consistent rainfall from September to November and a pronounced dry season from January to March. The scientists observed the redstarts in their non-breeding territories for five years during the dry season. They paid special attention to the annual variation in dry season rainfall. The correlation between the amount of insects in a bird's territory and the timing of its departure suggested to the team that annual variation in food availability was an important determining factor in the timing of spring migration. Had the redstarts relied on internal cues alone to schedule their spring departure, they would have all left their winter territories at the same time each year.

"Our results support the idea that environmental conditions on tropical non-breeding areas can influence the departure time for spring migration," said Colin Studds, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Migratory Bird Center and lead author of the study. "We found that the same birds changed their spring departure from one year to the next in relation to the amount of rainfall and food in March."

During the past 16 years, the dry season in Jamaica has become both increasingly severe and unpredictable, leading to an 11 percent drop in total rainfall during the three-month annual drought. Making the future even more dire, climate models predict not only increased warming on temperate breeding areas but also continued drying in the Caribbean.

A critical question for the scientists is whether this variation in the onset of spring migration carries consequences for the birds. Delaying departure could be beneficial if food resources are low and the individual has not yet stored enough energy to migrate. However, delaying departure could affect arrival time to its breeding territory and result in less time to successfully reproduce. "Because American redstarts return to the same site to breed each year, arriving later may make it harder for them remain to remain in synch with their breeding cycle," Studds said.

John Gibbons | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>