Warm temperatures during cold season can negatively affect adult survival in an alpine bird
Climate seasonality is a predominant constraint on the lifecycles of species in alpine and polar biomes. Assessing the response of these species to climate change thus requires taking into account seasonal constraints on populations. However, interactions between seasonality, weather fluctuations, and population parameters remain poorly explored as they require long‐term studies with high sampling frequency. This study investigated the influence of environmental covariates on the demography of a corvid species, the alpine chough Pyrrhocorax graculus, in the highly seasonal environment of the Mont Blanc region. In two steps, we estimated: (1) the seasonal survival of categories of individuals based on their age, sex, etc., (2) the effect of environmental covariates on seasonal survival. We hypothesized that the cold season—and more specifically, the end of the cold season (spring)—would be a critical period for individuals, and we expected that weather and individual covariates would influence survival variation during critical periods. We found that while spring was a critical season for adult female survival, it was not for males. This is likely because females are dominated by males at feeding sites during snowy seasons (winter and spring), and additionally must invest energy in egg production. When conditions were not favorable, which seemed to happen when the cold season was warmer than usual, females probably reached their physiological limits. Surprisingly, adult survival was higher at the beginning of the cold season than in summer, which may result from adaptation to harsh weather in alpine and polar vertebrates. This hypothesis could be confirmed by testing it with larger sets of populations. This first seasonal analysis of individual survival over the full life cycle in a sedentary alpine bird shows that including seasonality in demographic investigations is crucial to better understand the potential impacts of climate change on cold ecosystems.