Nonbreeding Habitat Occupancy And Population Processes: An Upgrade Experiment With A Migratory Bird
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Type of Work6 pages
Citation of Original PublicationColin E. Studds and Peter P. Marra, Nonbreeding Habitat Occupancy And Population Processes: An Upgrade Experiment With A Migratory Bird , Ecology,86(9), 2005, pp. 2380–2385, https://doi.org/10.1890/04-1145
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experimentally upgraded territories
nonbreeding winter habitat
Evidence is accumulating that winter habitats occupied by migratory birds produce differences in individual condition that can carry over into subsequent stages of the annual cycle. Despite strong observational evidence, experimental work is needed to strengthen support for this hypothesis. We experimentally upgraded individual American Redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) from low‐quality second‐growth scrub habitat to high‐quality mangrove forest habitat by permanently removing behaviorally dominant, primarily adult males from mangrove, allowing females and immature males from scrub to colonize vacated territories. Prior to the manipulation, upgraded and control redstarts had stable‐carbon isotope values in their blood indicative of scrub habitat occupancy and were comparable in body mass. Relative to control birds that overwintered exclusively in scrub, upgraded redstarts incorporated mangrove isotopic signatures, maintained body mass from winter to spring, departed earlier on spring migration, and returned at a higher rate in the following winter. Furthermore, insect biomass on upgrade territories was significantly greater than on control territories, suggesting food availability as a proximate mechanism underlying gradients of nonbreeding habitat suitability. Findings here demonstrate that winter habitat occupancy can be an important determinant of individual performance in migratory birds. Restricted access to food‐rich winter habitats may limit survival of females and immature males, an outcome that could be an important driver of population structure and dynamics.
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