Wesołowski T. Cholewa M., Hebda G., Maziarz M., Rowiński P. 2016. Immense plasticity of timing of breeding in a sedentary forest passerine, Poecile palustris. Journal of Avian Biology 47: 129-133.

Numerous bird species have advanced their breeding seasons in response to climate warming. These changes were mostly brought about by phenotypic plasticity, i.e. flexible reactions of individual birds, rather than by microevolutionary change. Knowing the limits of plasticity is thus of paramount importance in any attempt to predict possible reactions of birds to climate warming. However, the breeding performance of the same individuals in contrasting environmental conditions, necessary to answer this question, is rarely observed. Here, we provide data on the flexibility in timing of egg-laying of individual Marsh Tit Poecile palustris females breeding in an extremely late (2013) and early (2014) spring in Białowieża National Park (Poland). In both years the birds stayed in the same places in the primeval old-growth forest, free of direct human influences (no nest-boxes, no additional food). The weather variation was within the range of conditions observed during 40 years in the study area, and no climate warming occurred in the Marsh Tit’s pre-breeding period. Females (n = 16) shifted the onset of laying by 13-23 (median = 20) days between the seasons. This range of individual flexibility encompasses almost the whole latitudinal range of the breeding dates found across Europe. Such a buffer of plasticity would probably be sufficient for Marsh Tits to adjust the onset of egg-laying to the forecasted range of climate change. A combination of temperature and photoperiod appears to be involved in fine tuning of the birds’ breeding times with spring conditions, but how the birds asses and integrate this information remains poorly understood.