ABSTRACT

Studies of the effects of climate change on migratory bird behavior have established that many species are shifting the average day of year of their arrival at nesting sites earlier. If migrating birds are adapted to arrive at the optimum stage in the growth season to maximize the availability of resources, then migration phenology shifts may result in arrival at nesting sites at selectively disadvantageous points in seasonal development of the nesting ecosystem. First arrival dates (FAD) are changing for many species, but we know little about shifts in the corresponding accumulated growing degree units (AGDU) of arrival date in association with increasing global temperatures. By transcribing field notes for migrant arrival times during the years of 1910–1950 in the region around Fargo, ND, we obtained a detailed and robust description of historical phenological patterns. Comparison of the arrival times of 83 of the same species in the same location over the past 10 years indicate that the majority of bird species studied are arriving earlier than they did historically. The accumulated growing degree units at the time of arrival deviated from past values by as much as 4–5% higher or lower depending on the species. In general, short-distance migrants have advanced their arrival times and reduced the AGDU at the time of arrival relative to long-distance migrants. These results indicate that changing climate is influencing bird migration patterns and leading to arrival of migrants at different points in the progress of the growing season relative to the past. The impacts of this divergence on fitness and selection are expected to influence the nature of future bird communities.

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