Nightjars May Adjust Breeding Phenology to Compensate For Mismatches between Moths and Moonlight

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

English, Philina & Nocera, Joseph & Green, David. (2017). Nightjars may adjust breeding phenology to compensate for mismatches between moths and moonlight. Ecology and Evolution. 8. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.4077.

Date created: 

Phenology match–mismatch usually refers to the extent of an organism's ability to match reproduction with peaks in food availability, but when mismatch occurs, it may indicate a response to another selective pressure. We assess the value of matching reproductive timing to multiple selective pressures for a migratory lunarphilic aerial insectivore bird, the whip‐poor‐will (Antrostomus vociferus). We hypothesize that a whip‐poor‐will's response to shifts in local phenology may be constrained by long annual migrations and a foraging mode that is dependent on both benign weather and the availability of moonlight. To test this, we monitored daily nest survival and overall reproductive success relative to food availability and moon phase in the northern part of whip‐poor‐will's breeding range. We found that moth abundance, and potentially temperature and moonlight, may all have a positive influence on daily chick survival rates and that the lowest chick survival rates for the period between hatching and fledging occurred when hatch was mismatched with both moths and moonlight. However, rather than breeding too late for peak moth abundance, the average first brood hatch date actually preceded the peak moth abundance and occurred during a period with slightly higher available moonlight than the period of peak food abundance. As a result, a low individual survival rate was partially compensated for by initiating more nesting attempts. This suggests that nightjars were able to adjust their breeding phenology in such a way that the costs of mismatch with food supply were at least partially balanced by a longer breeding season.

Document type: 
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF)
Species at Risk Stewardship Program
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)