Contrasting sensitivity of nestling and fledgling Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica body mass to local weather conditions

Richard J. Facey*, Jim O. Vafidis, Jeremy Smith, Ian P. Vaughan, Robert J. Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Local weather can influence the growth and development of young birds either indirectly, by modifying prey availability, or directly, by affecting energetic trade-offs. Such effects can have lasting implications for life history traits, but the nature of these effets may vary with the developmental stage of the birds, and over timescales from days to weeks. We examined the interactive effects of temperature, rainfall and wind speed on the mass of nestling and fledgling Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica both on the day of capture and averaging weather across the time since hatching. At the daily timescale, nestling mass was negatively correlated with temperature, but the strength of this association depended on the level of rainfall and wind speed; nestlings were typically heavier on dry or windy days, and the negative effect of temperature was strongest under calm or wet conditions. At the early lifetime timescale (i.e. from hatching to pre-fledging), nestling mass was negatively correlated with temperature at low wind speed. Fledgling body mass was less sensitive to weather; the only weather effect evident was a negative correlation with temperature at the daily scale under high rainfall that became slightly positive under low rainfall. These changes are consistent with weather effects on the availability and distribution of insects within the landscape (e.g. causing high concentrations of flying insects) and with the effects of weather variation on nest microclimate. These results together demonstrate the impacts of weather on chick growth, over immediate (daily) and longer term (nestling/fledgling lifetime) timescales. This shows that sensitivity to local weather conditions varies across the early lifetime of young birds (nestling–fledgling stages) and illustrates the mechanisms by which larger scale (climate) variations influence the body condition of individuals.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1163-1174
    Number of pages12
    Issue number4
    Early online date26 Feb 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


    • fitness wind speed
    • foraging ecology
    • rainfall
    • temperature


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