Variation in weather patterns can influence reproductive effort and success not only within but also between breeding seasons. Where environmental conditions can be highly variable between years, the weather, and particularly extreme weather events such as heat waves and droughts, may exert a strong influence on reproductive effort (number of breeding attempts) and success (number of surviving young) from one breeding season to the next.
We used a 15-year dataset for a cooperatively breeding bird, the southern pied babbler Turdoides bicolor, to determine the impact of high temperatures and drought on reproductive effort and success. We tested the influence on reproductive effort and success of mean daily maximum air temperature and drought both within a breeding season, to determine the relative importance of current conditions, and during the previous breeding season, to determine the relative importance of compensatory effects in response to prior conditions. Reproductive effort and success were lower during breeding seasons characterized by drought, and higher in the breeding seasons that followed droughts, but were not predicted by mean daily maximum temperatures measured over the full length of the breeding season.
We provide evidence of compensatory breeding following drought in a bird species endemic to a semi-arid ecosystem and suggest that compensatory mechanisms may be an important part of both long-term population persistence and post-drought population recovery.
DST-NRF Centre of Excellence at Q13 the FitzPatrick Institute for African Ornithology
University of Cape Town
Oppenheimer Memorial Trust (Grant No. 20747/01 to AB)
British Ornithologists’ Union
Australian Research Council (Grant No. FT110100188 to AR),
National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant No. 110506 to SC).