With global climate change, the Arctic is warming rapidly altering seasonal patterns of temperature, precipitation, and snowmelt. These changes in seasonality may have particularly acute consequences for species that migrate to the Arctic to exploit seasonal resources and breed. Despite abundant evidence from the temperate zone that climate change is affecting avian migratory and reproductive phenology, with severe consequences for some populations, less is known about how birds are responding in the Arctic. Over a 5 year period (2012-2016), we observed two species of migratory passerines breeding in the vicinity of Toolik Field Station, North Slope Borough, Alaska; the Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) and the White-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii). In our first study, we asked how short term fluctuations in weather and food availability on the breeding grounds affect daily nestling survival. Since timing and successful completion of breeding could influence subsequent life history events, we conducted a second study looking at how reproductive timing and local weather conditions affect timing of fall migratory departure.
Our results suggest that weather events, especially precipitation, influence both daily nestling survival and timing of fall migratory departure. Additionally, timing of breeding can affect when birds depart the breeding grounds- birds that end parental care later in the year migrate later. These studies offer insight into what proximate factors may play an important role in shaping avian response to continued climate change in the Arctic. This work also shows the power of integrating multiple life history events in climate change studies.