The seasonal timing of avian reproduction is supposed primarily to coincide with favourable feeding conditions. Long-term changes in avian breeding phenology are thus mostly scrutinized in relation to climatic factors and matching of the food supplies, while the role of nesting mortality is largely unexplored. Here we show that higher seasonal mean daily mortality rate leads to a shift in the distribution of breeding times of the successful nests to later dates in an an open-nesting passerine bird, the red-backed shrike Lanius collurio. The effect appeared to be strong enough to enhance or counteract the influence of climatic factors and breeding density on the inter-annual variation in mean hatching dates. Moreover, the seasonal distribution of reproductive output was shifted to larger, or smaller, broods early in the season when the nesting mortality increased, or decreased, respectively, during the season. We suggest that population level changes in timing of breeding caused by a general advancement of spring and of the food supplies might be altered by the seasonality in nesting mortality. Hence, we argue that consideration of nesting mortality is of major importance for understanding long-term trends in avian phenology, particularly in species capable of renesting.
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