Bird Migration Timing Advance

Using large-scale citizen science data to model phenology of bird migration

Substantial global data show that many taxa are shifting their phenologies in response to climate change. For birds, migration arrival dates in breeding regions have been shifting earlier, and there is evidence that both evolutionary adaptation and behavioural flexibility influence these shifts. As more efficient flyers may be able to demonstrate more flexibility to respond to changing conditions during migratory flight, we hypothesize that differences among passerine species in flight efficiency, as reflected by morphology, may be associated with the magnitude of shifts in arrival date in response to climate warming. We applied a logistic model to 18 years of eBird data to estimate mean arrival date for 44 common passerines migrating to northeast North America. We then used linear mixed-effects models to estimate changes in mean arrival date and compared these changes to morphological proxies for flight efficiency and migratory distance using phylogenetic generalized least squares models. On average, passerine species shifted their arrival dates 0.120 days earlier each year, with 27 of the 44 species shifting to significantly earlier arrival times, and two shifting to significantly later ones. Of the 15 species with non-significant shifts, 13 trended toward earlier arrivals. Longer migration distances and higher wing aspect ratios were associated with greater shifts toward earlier arrivals. Migration distance and aspect ratio were also significantly correlated to each other. This suggests that changes in arrival date are affected by factors pertaining to migratory flight over long distances namely, flight efficiency and migration distance. These traits may be able predict the magnitude of arrival date shift, and by extension identify species that are most at risk to climate change due to inflexible arrival timing.


Chu, J. J., Gillis, D. P., & Riskin, S. H. (2022). Community science reveals links between migration arrival timing advance, migration distance and wing shape. Journal of Animal Ecology, 91(8), 1651– 1665.

Figure from Chu et al. (2022)
Map depicting mean spring arrival date shifts during 2002– 2019 across 200 km × 200 km cells for 44 species of migratory passerines. Data were obtained from shaded areas. Warmer colours and minus symbols (−) represent cells with overall negative mean arrival date shifts/earlier arrivals, whereas cooler colours and plus symbols (+) represent cells with overall positive mean arrival date shifts/later arrivals.