Lincoln Blue Tits contribute to debate on climate change

Lincoln Blue Tits have helped researchers discover that the size of birds’ nests, created in response to weather patterns may be partly to blame for recent reproductive failures.

The research, written by senior lecturer at the University of Lincoln Dr Charles Deeming, appeared in the April edition of The Biologist, the Society of Biology’s magazine.

He explains that birds produce different sized nests depending on the weather, and that nests do more than just hold offspring.

He said: “Over the past few years scientific interest in nests has increased, with studies ranging from nest composition, construction behaviour and thermal properties to the use of nests as potential signals to mates.

“We’ve realised that the factors affecting nest construction are far more complex than we had previously understood.”

Dr Deeming studied Great Tits and Blue Tits and their breeding habits in nest boxes at the University’s Riseholme campus just outside Lincoln.

He found that nests differed year on year. For instance, if the weather was cold while the bird added lining, it meant they built a heavier nest.

This is most likely to keep the bird warm while it sits on the eggs.

This is why climate change can affect reproduction in the way birds construct nests — recently, warmer weather early on was shortly followed by much cooler weather.

Additionally, birds use a variety of materials to make their nests, but changes in weather could affect the plants growing in the area, affecting nesting material.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, said: “Climate change will have a large effect on our ecosystems and our food production, and Dr Deeming’s is one of many studies demonstrating that the effects will be complex and difficult to predict.

“It is essential that we continue to study how organisms adapt to climate change and how we can best mitigate its effects.”