Climate Change & Bird Breeding
Wed, 16 May 2012
A 20-year study of breeding habits of Dippers suggests that the birds are potentially being influenced by a changing climate.
The Dipper, Cinclus cinclus, is an exclusively riverine bird- i.e. its entire life history is dependent on the river. These are highly adapted birds - adapted to walk under water, dive and wade as they seek out insect larvae and freshwater snails for food. They are common birds on Irish rivers - mostly distributed on fast flowing waters- which are rich in food. We have been studying the population biology of Dippers in south-west Ireland for over 20 years- focussing inter alia on the timing of breeding, clutch sizes, and brood sizes and post fledging dispersal.
In recent years we have seen a change in the timing of breeding in Dippers- birds now laying a number of days earlier in recent years. This is the first evidence of potential impact of climate change on birds in Ireland and is possible because of this study is the longest longitudinal study of any species breeding biology in Ireland and this it is possible to detect this type of environmental change.