From individual behaviour to population pattern: weather-dependent foraging and breeding performance in black kites. Sergio, Fabrizio.
The links between weather and animal behaviour in population processes have received relatively little attention. I studied the effect of weather conditions on foraging and breeding performance of a medium-sized raptor, the black kite, Milvus migrans. The frequency of prey capture attempts and their likelihood of success increased with temperature and declined with rainfall. Kites used flight styles involving a higher energy expenditure in less favourable weather. Nestling provisioning rates declined during rain spells. More kites hunted during periods of favourable weather and after periods with a high frequency of successful prey capture attempts by conspecifics; this result suggested that individuals may fine-tune their foraging effort to the expected foraging reward. Such compensatory behavioural adjustments may increase species resilience to climate change. The behaviourally mediated effects of weather on prey availability translated into population effects. Yearly weather conditions during the last stage of the prelaying period affected population-level productivity, probably through an effect on female body condition mediated by male provisioning capability and hunting yield. The predicted effects of climate change on kites may already be occurring, with progressively earlier laying and northward range expansion. These results confirm the need to pay greater attention to behaviourally mediated effects of climate on populations, particularly when individuals make compensatory adjustments that may enhance resilience to climate change.