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Interspecific variation in the relationship between clutch size, laying date and intensity of urbanization in four species of hole-nesting birds

  • Marie Vaugoyeau
  • Frank Adriaensen
  • Alexandr Artemyev
  • Jerzy Bańbura
  • Emilio Barba
  • Clotilde Biard
  • Jacques Blondel
  • Zihad Bouslama
  • Jean-Charles Bouvier
  • Jordi Camprodon
  • Francesco Cecere
  • Anne Charmantier
  • Motti Charter
  • Mariusz Cichoń
  • Camillo Cusimano
  • Dorota Czeszczewik
  • Virginie Demeyrier
  • Blandine Doligez
  • Claire Doutrelant
  • Anna Dubiec
  • Marcel Eens
  • Tapio Eeva
  • Bruno Faivre
  • Peter N. Ferns
  • Jukka T. Forsman
  • Eduardo García-del-Rey
  • Aya Goldshtein
  • Anne E. Goodenough
  • Andrew G. Gosler
  • Arnaud Grégoire
  • Lars Gustafsson
  • Iga Harnist
  • Ian R. Hartley
  • Philipp Heeb
  • Shelley A. Hinsley
  • Paul Isenmann
  • Staffan Jacob
  • Rimvydas Juškaitis
  • Erkki Korpimäki
  • Indrikis Krams
  • Toni Laaksonen
  • Marcel M. Lambrechts
  • Bernard Leclercq
  • Esa Lehikoinen
  • Olli Loukola
  • Arne Lundberg
  • Mark C. Mainwaring
  • Raivo Mänd
  • Bruno Massa
  • Tomasz D. Mazgajski
  • Santiago Merino
  • Cezary Mitrus
  • Mikko Mönkkönen
  • Xavier Morin
  • Ruedi G. Nager
  • Jan Åke Nilsson
  • Sven G. Nilsson
  • Ana C. Norte
  • Markku Orell
  • Philippe Perret
  • Christopher M. Perrins
  • Carla S. Pimentel
  • Rianne Pinxten
  • Heinz Richner
  • Hugo Robles
  • Seppo Rytkönen
  • Juan Carlos Senar
  • Janne T. Seppänen
  • Luis Pascoal da Silva
  • Tore Slagsvold
  • Tapio Solonen
  • Alberto Sorace
  • Martyn J. Stenning
  • Piotr Tryjanowski
  • Mikael von Numers
  • Wieslaw Walankiewicz
  • Anders Pape Møller
Publishing year: 2016-08-01
Language: English
Pages: 5907-5920
Publication/Series: Ecology and Evolution
Volume: 6
Issue: 16
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

The increase in size of human populations in urban and agricultural areas has resulted in considerable habitat conversion globally. Such anthropogenic areas have specific environmental characteristics, which influence the physiology, life history, and population dynamics of plants and animals. For example, the date of bud burst is advanced in urban compared to nearby natural areas. In some birds, breeding success is determined by synchrony between timing of breeding and peak food abundance. Pertinently, caterpillars are an important food source for the nestlings of many bird species, and their abundance is influenced by environmental factors such as temperature and date of bud burst. Higher temperatures and advanced date of bud burst in urban areas could advance peak caterpillar abundance and thus affect breeding phenology of birds. In order to test whether laying date advance and clutch sizes decrease with the intensity of urbanization, we analyzed the timing of breeding and clutch size in relation to intensity of urbanization as a measure of human impact in 199 nest box plots across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East (i.e., the Western Palearctic) for four species of hole-nesters: blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), great tits (Parus major), collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis), and pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). Meanwhile, we estimated the intensity of urbanization as the density of buildings surrounding study plots measured on orthophotographs. For the four study species, the intensity of urbanization was not correlated with laying date. Clutch size in blue and great tits does not seem affected by the intensity of urbanization, while in collared and pied flycatchers it decreased with increasing intensity of urbanization. This is the first large-scale study showing a species-specific major correlation between intensity of urbanization and the ecology of breeding. The underlying mechanisms for the relationships between life history and urbanization remain to be determined. We propose that effects of food abundance or quality, temperature, noise, pollution, or disturbance by humans may on their own or in combination affect laying date and/or clutch size.


  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Breeding phenology
  • orthophotograph
  • passerine birds
  • population dynamics
  • urban heat island effect


  • ISSN: 2045-7758
Sven G. Nilsson
E-mail: sven [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus




Research group

Biodiversity and Conservation Science