Conspecific attraction and nest site selection in a nomadic species, the zebra finch

Mylene M. Mariette*, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Conspecific nesting density affects many aspects of breeding biology, as well as habitat selection decisions. However, the large variations in breeding density observed in many species are yet to be fully explained. Here, we investigated the settlement patterns in a colonial species with variable breeding density and where resource distribution could be manipulated. The zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, is a classic avian model in evolutionary biology but we know surprisingly very little about nest site selection strategies and nesting densities in this species, and in fact, in nomadic species in general. Yet, important determinants of habitat selection strategies, including temporal predictability and breeding synchrony, are likely to be different in nomadic species than in the non-nomadic species studied to date. Here, we manipulated the distribution of nesting sites (by providing nest boxes) and food patches (feeders) to test four non-exclusive habitat selection hypotheses that could lead to nest aggregation: 1) attraction to resources, 2) attraction to breeding conspecifics, and 3) attraction to successful conspecifics and 4) use of private information (i.e. own reproductive success on a site). We found that wild zebra finches used conspecific presence and possibly reproductive success, to make decisions over where to locate their nests, but did not aggregate around water or food within the study areas. Moreover, there was a high degree of inter-individual variation in nesting density preference. We discuss the significance of our results for habitat selection strategy in nomadic species and with respect to the differential selection pressures that individuals breeding at different densities may experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-834
Number of pages12
JournalOikos
Volume121
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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