© Marcel Burkhardt
Arlettaz, R., M. Schaad, T. S. Reichlin & M. Schaub (2010)
Impact of weather and climate variation on Hoopoe reproductive ecology and population growth.
J. Ornithol. 151: 371–378
Preserving peripheral populations is a key conservation issue because of the adaptive potential to environmental change they provide for the species as a whole. Yet, peripheral populations are often small and isolated, i.e. more vulnerable to stochastic events and prone to extinction. We studied a peripheral population of Hoopoe (Upupa epops), a rare insectivorous farmland bird, in the Swiss Alps. We first investigated the effect of weather variationon food provisioning to chicks by Hoopoe parents. Second, while accounting for density-dependence, we tested the extent to which breeding success is governed by weather circumstances and assessed the possible consequences of climate variation on population growth. Provisioning rate and provisioned prey biomass were negatively affected by adverse weather (cool, rainy days), were higher in males and also increased with brood size. Much smaller proportions of mole crickets (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa; the most profitable prey locally, constituting 93% of chicks’ food biomass) were provisioned on days with adverse weather, irrespective of brood size. Rainfall prior to hatching and during the first days of chick life had a negative impact on their survival, and there was a positive effect of temperature on chick survival just before fledging. Reproductive output was negatively affected by precipitation during the hatching period, but was enhanced by warm temperature just before hatching and in the last days before fledging. Our model showed that the variable reproductive output has a strong impact on the population growth: a succession of adverse, rainy springs would cause a rapid decline of the population. This case study confirms that conservation efforts may be obliterated if risks linked to increasing climate variability are not properly accounted for in the management of small peripheral populations.
Keywords: Bird conservation, food provisioning, insectivorous birds, reproduction versus climate variation, trophic ecology.