The El Niño – Southern Oscillation dramatically influences the probability of reproduction and reproductive rate of a tropical forest bird

Zachariah Fox Smart, Maria G. Smith, Christina Riehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although climate change has been implicated in population declines of tropical forest birds, there is a critical lack of data on the mechanisms underlying these declines. Attempts to link climatic factors to variation in adult survival, fecundity or nest success have been largely inconclusive. Recent community-scale analyses have suggested that tropical birds may be less likely to breed under adverse conditions, but long-term data on individual reproduction are needed to test this hypothesis. Here we leverage 12 years of data on a lowland forest bird, the greater ani Crotophaga major, to investigate how demographic parameters vary with phase of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a major driver of climatic conditions in tropical wet forest. The likelihood of breeding and annual reproductive rate both decreased dramatically in El Niño-like years, with only 37.5% of adults attempting breeding in 2015 (a strong El Niño year). For birds that did breed, however, clutch size and daily nest predation rate were unaffected by climate. Of the local climate variables investigated, dry season length and the frequency of high temperatures were most closely associated with reproductive failure. These results indicate that El Niño conditions alter the demography of greater anis by reducing the likelihood of reproduction, a response that may be more widespread than currently recognized. We suggest that reduced reproduction under adverse conditions represents an important and understudied aspect of the life histories of tropical forest birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberJAV12786
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume52
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Keywords

  • climate change
  • Crotophaga major
  • demography
  • greater ani
  • intermittent breeding
  • predation
  • rainfall
  • reproductive skipping
  • tropical forest

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