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Effects of urbanization and extreme weather on the life cycle of a common songbird, The Carolina Chickadee

Faculty Mentor: Luke Butler

Students: Sydney Hope & Frank Stabile

Urbanization has important effects on the biology of a wide variety of organisms. Likewise, global climate change has altered the timing of important steps in the life cycles of many organisms. In birds, the annual replacement of the plumage is a critical life stage and the timing and rate of plumage replacement may be sensitive to environmental perturbations such as urbanization and climatological extremes. We used a common songbird, the Carolina chickadee, as a model species to investigate the effects of urbanization and climate change on the timing and rate of plumage replacement in small birds. We compared plumage replacement in chickadee populations from urban and forest settings and across a three-year period with variable spring temperatures. We found that forest chickadees started molt later than urban chickadees and later in colder years than in warmer years. This study is the first to suggest that plumage replacement dynamics of songbirds may be altered in urban environments and in response to predicted global temperature increases.