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4 September 2020 Seasonal rainfall in subtropical montane cloud forests drives demographic fluctuations in a Green-backed Tit population
Ming-Tang Shiao, Mei-Chen Chuang, Hsiao-Wei Yuan, Ying Wang
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Montane birds are vulnerable to climate change. However, the mechanisms by which weather drives demographic processes in montane birds have seldom been investigated. We conducted a long-term study (2009–2019) on the Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus), an insectivorous passerine, in the montane cloud forest of subtropical Taiwan. We explored the effects of weather variability on the productivity and survival of adult Green-backed Tits. Nest survival was negatively associated with seasonal rainfall during the breeding season (April–July) and was lower in early clutches than in late clutches. Higher typhoon-induced precipitation during the postbreeding period (July–September) was related to reduced adult survival, but neither summer temperature nor winter weather conditions were found to be related to adult bird survival. We developed a stochastic simulation model for Green-backed Tit population dynamics based on empirical data. We compared the simulated time-series and observed population growth rates (λ) and found that 80% (8/10 yr) of the observed λ fell within the 5th and 95th percentiles of the simulated data over the 10-yr period. Moreover, the simulated average (± standard deviation) of the geometric mean of λ over 10 yr (1.05 ± 0.07) was close to that observed from 2009 to 2019 (0.99), which provided confidence that the model effectively simulated the population growth rate of the Green-backed Tit. We conducted a sensitivity analysis for λ and found that juvenile and adult survival influenced by typhoon-induced rainfall were the greatest contributors to the variance in the growth rate of the Green-backed Tit population. With the onset of intensified seasonal precipitation associated with global warming, the population growth and density of Green-backed Tits will decline substantially. Our results suggest that under scenarios of high emissions of greenhouse gas, this local population of Green-backed Tits will not persist in the near future.


  • Although montane birds are vulnerable to climate change, the effect of weather on their demography has seldom been investigated.

  • We examined the vital rates of the Green-backed Tit in a subtropical montane forest in Taiwan and constructed a model to simulate their population dynamics.

  • We found seasonal precipitation to be the critical factor driving population fluctuations.

  • High rainfall was related to decreased nest survival; typhoon-induced precipitation was associated with decreased adult survival.

  • As seasonal precipitation is expected to intensify under high greenhouse gas emission scenarios, this local population is unlikely to persist in the future. Hence, the species may become a conservation concern.

Copyright © American Ornithological Society 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, e-mail:
Ming-Tang Shiao, Mei-Chen Chuang, Hsiao-Wei Yuan, and Ying Wang "Seasonal rainfall in subtropical montane cloud forests drives demographic fluctuations in a Green-backed Tit population," The Condor 122(4), 1-15, (4 September 2020).
Received: 26 November 2019; Accepted: 14 July 2020; Published: 4 September 2020
adult survival
monsoon precipitation
Parus monticolus
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