Why do birds lose their colors with global warming?

All organisms are affected by the effects of global warming. Birds also react to environmental changes. Nearly 6,000 observations of tits have been made over the past fifteen years. They allow the researchers of this study to conclude that the ornamental colorations, whose role is essential in the reproduction of the species, could fade under the effect of the new environmental conditions.

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A study shows how blue tits in the south of France gradually lost their color of their plumage within fifteen years. A direct consequence of global warmingbelieve the French scientists who led this research published in the journal The American Naturalist.

The study was carried out between 2005 and 2019 in the south of France by scientists from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country and the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE-CNRS) in Montpellier. It focused on two populations of blue tits: the first evolved on the outskirts of Montpellier, the second in the northwest of Corsica.

Rising temperatures and falling precipitation

These birds of the passerine family are characterized by their blue crest and yellow chest. But, over their fifteen years of observation, the scientists noted a clear decrease in coloration in the two populations of birds studied.

A modification that the authors of the research directly associate with climatic changes. ” The change in plumage color appears to be the result of a combination of increased temperature (1.23 ºC) and decreased precipitation (0.64 mm). Climate change would therefore be the potential cause of this difference. “says David López-Idiáquez, researcher in the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology of the UPV/EHU and lead author of the study.

Discolored plumage could disrupt breeding

These changes do not only have aesthetic consequences, warns the researcher, but can disrupt the reproduction conditions of these birds, insofar as their colors serve as signs of distinction to identify between specimens, ” determinants when it comes to reproduction “says David López.

The blue tit is not the only animal species to know a change in their physiology under the effect of climate change. Research published in April 2021 showed in particular that milder temperatures in spring and a melting early snow would contribute to reduce the body size of mountain bees.

To better regulate their internal temperature and adapt to climatic variationsother animals modify the morphology their ears or beaks, as is the case with Australian parrots or bats.

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