2019 Graduate Student Showcase

Title of Submission

Predicting Avian Breeding Phenology at a Continental Scale

Degree Program

Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, PhD

Major Advisor Name

Julie Heath

Type of Submission

Scholarly Poster


The timing of avian life-history events are shifting in response to rapid global change, with many bird species advancing their egg-laying dates. However, the factors that drive the timing of reproduction, and how these relationships might vary across species’ ranges, are not well understood. Using nest data collected by citizens and professional scientists across the continental US, we related the timing of egg-laying in American kestrels (Falco sparverius) to several environmental factors (e.g., elevation, winter/spring temperatures and precipitation, and vegetation phenology). We used a Bayesian framework (Integrated Nested Laplace Approximation) to fit models of kestrel laydate that included the effects of spatial autocorrelation, which if unaccounted for can lead to an underestimation or incorrect inference for the parameters of interest. We found that kestrel laydates were correlated with each other within a range of ~500 km, and that laydates were positively related to start-of-spring date. Results from this analysis can be used to predict American kestrel laydates across the US, and to forecast the impacts of future climate change scenarios on kestrel breeding phenology.

Funding Information

US Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (Award # RC-2702)

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