1063 Oxtongue Lake Road

Dwight, Canada

1063 Oxtongue Lake Road

Dwight, Canada
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Sechley T.H.,University of Guelph | Sechley T.H.,Duke University | Strickland D.,University of Guelph | Ryan Norris D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road
Canadian Journal of Zoology | Year: 2015

Understanding how long-term changes in climate influence populations requires knowledge of the mechanisms by which climate influences individual success and population abundance. We explored the implications of warmer falls and winters on a nonmigratory, food-caching bird, the Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis (L., 1766)), in Algonquin Park, Ontario, by experimentally examining the influence of temperature on the caloric content and mass of simulated cached food. Using three sites in, north of, and south of Algonquin, we examined the hypothesis that warmer temperatures would negatively influence the preservation of cached food by accelerating decay. Food cached at the highest latitude site retained the greatest mass and caloric content over 180 days of exposure, but there was no difference between the intermediate and the low latitude sites. We also show that Algonquin experienced a winter climate similar to our northernmost site as recently as 1990, and our results suggest that food availability in Algonquin has likely decreased since then, due to a warming climate. Interestingly, this coincides with a decline in territory occupancy by Gray Jays in Algonquin. Our results point to a unique mechanism by which climate warming may influence the persistence of a boreal species through its influence on winter food availability. © 2015, National Research Council of Canada. All rights reserved.


Strickland D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road | Norris D.R.,University of Guelph
Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2015

The island rule refers to the tendency of small vertebrates to become larger when isolated on islands and the frequent dwarfing of large forms. It implies genetic control, and a necessary linkage, of size and body-mass differences between insular and mainland populations. To examine the island rule, we compared body size and mass of gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) on Anticosti Island, Québec, located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with three mainland populations (2 in Québec and 1 in Ontario). Although gray jays on Anticosti Island were ca 10% heavier, they were not structurally larger, than the three mainland populations. This suggests that Anticosti jays are not necessarily genetically distinct from mainland gray jays and that they may have achieved their greater body masses solely through packing more mass onto mainland-sized body frames. As such, they may be the first-known example of a proposed, purely phenotypic initial step in the adherence to the island rule by an insular population. Greater jay body mass is probably advantageous in Anticosti's high-density, intensely competitive social environment that may have resulted from the island's lack of mammalian nest predators. The island-rule proposes that small animals become larger when isolated on islands whereas large animals tend towards dwarfism. We found that gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) on Anticosti Island, Québec were ca 10% heavier but not structurally larger, than three mainland populations, suggesting suggests that Anticosti jays are not necessarily genetically distinct from mainland gray jays and that they may achieve their greater body masses solely through packing more mass onto mainland-sized body frames. This is the first known example of a proposed, purely phenotypic initial step in the adherence to the island-rule by an insular population. © 2015 Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Whelan S.,University of Ottawa | Strickland D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road | Morand-Ferron J.,University of Ottawa | Norris D.R.,University of Guelph
Animal Behaviour | Year: 2016

Phenotypic plasticity allows individuals to adjust reproductive timing in response to variation in the environment but little is known about how other factors, such as habitat quality, social environment and experience, may influence adjustments in the timing of breeding. We evaluated intrinsic (female age), environmental and social factors influencing laying date plasticity and assessed the effect of laying date on reproductive success in a population of grey jays, Perisoreus canadensis, over nearly four decades (1978–2015). Grey jays rely on stored food during their late-winter nesting season, a unique life history context to study plasticity in reproductive timing. Overall, females tended to lay eggs earlier in response to higher prelaying temperatures and advanced laying date at similar rates over their lives. Male age interacted with both temperature and female age to influence laying date. Females mated to older males were more likely to breed earlier at lower temperatures than females mated to younger males but there was little effect of male age under warmer conditions. Similarly, younger females mated to older males were more likely to breed earlier than younger females mated to younger males but there was little effect of male age when females were older. Across all years, earlier laying relative to other breeders in the population led to higher probability of nest success and summer survival for dominant juveniles. Our results suggest that individual females adjust laying date in response to temperature and provide the first evidence that male experience plays an important, and probably underappreciated, role in how females adjust their timing of breeding over their lives and with respect to annual variation in the environment. © 2016 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour


Sechley T.H.,University of Guelph | Strickland D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road | Norris D.R.,University of Guelph
Journal of Avian Biology | Year: 2014

Animals that reside at high latitudes and altitudes year-round often use cached food to survive over the winter months, but a few species also rely on stored food to sustain them during the breeding season when the nutritional requirements of females are higher than normal. Gray jays Perisoreus canadensis rely on perishable cached food during the winter and females begin breeding in late winter when fresh food is rarely available. To examine pre-laying patterns of weight gain, as well as the causes and consequences of weight gain among individuals, we weighed females regularly throughout the pre-laying period. Females began increasing their weight approximately nine days prior to their first egg date, and on average increased their body weight by 25%, which is on par with other bird species that rely on non-cached food. Final pre-laying weight was positively influenced by the percent of conifers on territories, providing some support for previous results showing that coniferous trees are better able to preserve cached food. We also found that both final pre-laying weight and the rate of weight gain were positively related to female age, supporting the hypothesis that female caching ability improves with age. With increasing final weight, females tended to lay larger clutches and hatched more nestlings, despite the fact that final weight was not influenced by weight at the beginning of the weighing period. Our results confirm that gray jays are able to reach breeding condition while relying primarily on food stored before winter, and suggest a novel mechanism by which habitat-mediated carry-over effects and female age may influence reproductive performance in a food-caching animal. © 2013 The Authors.


Strickland D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road | Kielstra B.,University of Guelph | Norris D.R.,University of Guelph
Oecologia | Year: 2011

Variation in habitat quality can have important consequences for fitness and population dynamics. For food-caching species, a critical determinant of habitat quality is normally the density of storable food, but it is also possible that quality is driven by the ability of habitats to preserve food items. The food-caching gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis) occupies year-round territories in the coniferous boreal and subalpine forests of North America, but does not use conifer seed crops as a source of food. Over the last 33 years, we found that the occupancy rate of territories in Algonquin Park (ON, Canada) has declined at a higher rate in territories with a lower proportion of conifers compared to those with a higher proportion. Individuals occupying territories with a low proportion of conifers were also less likely to successfully fledge young. Using chambers to simulate food caches, we conducted an experiment to examine the hypothesis that coniferous trees are better able to preserve the perishable food items stored in summer and fall than deciduous trees due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties. Over a 1-4 month exposure period, we found that mealworms, blueberries, and raisins all lost less weight when stored on spruce and pine trees compared to deciduous and other coniferous trees. Our results indicate a novel mechanism to explain how habitat quality may influence the fitness and population dynamics of food-caching animals, and has important implications for understanding range limits for boreal breeding animals. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.


Norris D.R.,University of Guelph | Flockhart D.T.T.,University of Guelph | Strickland D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road
Oecologia | Year: 2013

A comprehensive understanding of how natural and anthropogenic variation in habitat influences populations requires long-term information on how such variation affects survival and dispersal throughout the annual cycle. Gray jays Perisoreus canadensis are widespread boreal resident passerines that use cached food to survive over the winter and to begin breeding during the late winter. Using multistate capture-recapture analysis, we examined apparent survival and dispersal in relation to habitat quality in a gray jay population over 34 years (1977-2010). Prior evidence suggests that natural variation in habitat quality is driven by the proportion of conifers on territories because of their superior ability to preserve cached food. Although neither adults (>1 year) nor juveniles (<1 year) had higher survival rates on high-conifer territories, both age classes were less likely to leave high-conifer territories and, when they did move, were more likely to disperse to high-conifer territories. In contrast, survival rates were lower on territories that were adjacent to a major highway compared to territories that did not border the highway but there was no evidence for directional dispersal towards or away from highway territories. Our results support the notion that natural variation in habitat quality is driven by the proportion of coniferous trees on territories and provide the first evidence that high-mortality highway habitats can act as an equal-preference ecological trap for birds. Reproductive success, as shown in a previous study, but not survival, is sensitive to natural variation in habitat quality, suggesting that gray jays, despite living in harsh winter conditions, likely favor the allocation of limited resources towards self-maintenance over reproduction. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Derbyshire R.,University of Guelph | Strickland D.,1063 Oxtongue Lake Road | Norris D.R.,University of Guelph
Ecology | Year: 2015

Several species of birds and mammals overcome periods of scarcity by caching food, but for the vast majority of species, it is virtually unknown whether they are food limited during these periods. The Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) is a boreal-resident, food-caching passerine that breeds in late winter when fresh food is scarce. Using a two-year experiment and 43 years of monitoring data, we examined the food limitation hypothesis in a population of Gray Jays in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada, that has declined by over 50% in the last three decades. Breeding pairs that were experimentally food supplemented during the pre-breeding period laid eggs earlier in the season and had larger brood sizes than non-supplemented controls. From the long-term data, we found strong evidence that pairs that were regularly supplemented by the public (park visitors) tended to lay eggs earlier and have larger clutches and brood sizes compared to pairs that were not supplemented. Nestling body condition (mass controlled for body size) was not influenced by either experimental or public food supplementation. Our results support the hypothesis that Gray Jays are food limited during their late-winter breeding period and suggest that warmer fall temperatures, which have been hypothesized to lead to cache spoilage, may have a significant impact on reproductive success in this declining population. Moreover, our results contribute to understanding how public feeding can influence the fitness of wild animals. © 2015 by the Ecological Society of America.


PubMed | University of Guelph and 1063 Oxtongue Lake Road
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Ecology and evolution | Year: 2015

The island rule refers to the tendency of small vertebrates to become larger when isolated on islands and the frequent dwarfing of large forms. It implies genetic control, and a necessary linkage, of size and body-mass differences between insular and mainland populations. To examine the island rule, we compared body size and mass of gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) on Anticosti Island, Qubec, located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with three mainland populations (2 in Qubec and 1 in Ontario). Although gray jays on Anticosti Island were ca 10% heavier, they were not structurally larger, than the three mainland populations. This suggests that Anticosti jays are not necessarily genetically distinct from mainland gray jays and that they may have achieved their greater body masses solely through packing more mass onto mainland-sized body frames. As such, they may be the first-known example of a proposed, purely phenotypic initial step in the adherence to the island rule by an insular population. Greater jay body mass is probably advantageous in Anticostis high-density, intensely competitive social environment that may have resulted from the islands lack of mammalian nest predators.

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