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2020 Projects

Synchrony in Breeding Phenology and Peak Food Abundance in the Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)

Sarah Lloyd ’21
Major: Organismal Biology & Ecology

Sarah Lloyd ’21

Major: Organismal Biology & Ecology

Faculty Collaborator: Brian Linkhart, Organismal Biology &Ecology

The timing of reproductive life-history events, or phenology, has significant fitness and survival implications for all species. Evolutionarily, it is hypothesized that among avian species, the highest energy demand during the reproductive period would coincide with the period of greatest food abundance. Understanding phenological synchrony and overlap between predator and prey is of great importance because it allows us to understand selective forces acting on the timing of reproduction. For primarily insectivorous birds, like the Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammelous), synchronization between the energy demands of offspring and moth abundance, is critical for the species’ fitness and survival. We tracked P. flammeolus breeding phenology and moth abundance for twelve years (2008-2019) to understand the degree of correlation between P. flammeolus breeding phenology and the timing of abundance of its primary food source, Noctuid and Geometrid moths. Our data suggests that the phenology of Geometrid and Noctuid moths is a strong selective force acting on the reproductive phenology of the P. flammeolus. From 2008-2019, peak moth abundance occurs, on average, 8 days after 60% of nests initiate hatching, aligning with increased energy demands that occur as a result of having young to feed. Additionally, fledging, marking the end of the reproductive season occurs during the last few days of the high moth abundance window. This study suggests there is a high degree of synchrony and overlap between P. flammeolus breeding phenology and Geometrid and Nocutuid moth abundance.

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