Research Theme in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution: “The Impact of Weather on the Behavior and Ecology of Birds”


Weather conditions affect animals in many different ways. Variation in temperature, rainfall, wind, and other environmental variables can have an impact at a range of temporal and spatial scales and at every level from individual behavior to species distributions. The interactions between these variables may be particularly important but are often overlooked. Hence, understanding how animals respond to weather conditions is a fundamental topic in evolution, ecology, and conservation, especially in a time of major environmental change.

Birds are an ideal group in which to investigate these relationships because they occur in almost every ecosystem across the globe, exploit a wide variety of food resources and often move between vastly different environments during their annual life cycle. Most recent research has focused on the impact of climate change and extreme weather events, but even small-scale variation in weather conditions may influence avian behavior, life history, physiology, and morphology. Assessing how birds respond to variation in weather, and the fitness consequences this brings, therefore plays a crucial role in a number of active research areas, including:

(1) identifying the selective pressures that may have led to trait evolution;
(2) predicting how birds will respond to environmental change; and
(3) developing successful conservation measures for threatened species.

This timely Research Topic builds on the symposium The Effects of Weather on Birds held at the 2019 European Ornithologists’ Union Congress at Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It will bring together articles from a range of disciplines to offer valuable and synthesized insights into the relationship between weather and birds. In doing so, it will link together broader themes such as adaptation, phenotypic plasticity, life history evolution, population dynamics, and migration, while also increasing our knowledge on the potential impacts of climate change.

We welcome contributions on any aspect of the weather and how it affects the behavior or ecology of birds. Articles may be original research papers, comparative analyses, reviews or perspectives. For further information please contact:


Dr Mark C. Mainwaring
Drollinger-Dial Post-doctoral Fellow in Functional Ecology
Division of Biological Sciences,
University of Montana,
Missoula, Montana,