Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

News Release - New tree swallow research out of Queen's University adds to the discussion on the state of our climate

Monday, March 18, 2019

(March 2019) Kingston, Ontario — New research from Queen’s University researchers Fran Bonier and recent MSc student Amelia Cox is adding to the growing evidence that the climate is changing – and not for the better.

Established in 1975 by Raleigh Robertson at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) just north of Kingston, a box-nesting population of tree swallows has provided long-term data sets that a number of Queen’s researchers have used. In their most recent study, Dr. Bonier and Ms. Cox have determined rainy springs are linked to poor nestling growth in this species.

The data shows that from 1977 to 2017, the nestlings’ body mass has declined substantially and adult body mass, particularly in males, has also been declining.


“We examined 42 years of data and have determined the decline started in the late 1980s. Tree swallows are avian aerial insectivores, which means they eat flying insects. These insects are inactive during cold, wet, or windy conditions which effectively reduces food availability to zero.”

Amelia Cox, recent MSc student

“This isn’t going to affect just one bird species; it’s happening with all aerial insectivores, like bats. These populations are important to the entire food chain and their decline could lead to an insect population explosion, which could be critical in many areas.”

Fran Bonier, Queen’s University professor

Associated links

The paper is available for viewing on the Proceedings of the Royal Society B website.


Follow Queens University on Twitter: @Queensu; @QueensuMedia

Anne Craig
Media Relations Officer

Related Experts