Possible causes and consequences of philopatry and breeding dispersal in red-backed shrikesLanius collurio

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Studies of animal breeding dispersal have often focused on possible causes, whereas its adaptive significance has received less attention. Using an information-theoretic approach, we assessed predictions of four hypotheses relating to causes and consequences of breeding dispersal in a migratory passerine, the red-backed shrike Lanius collurio. As predicted by the reproductive performance hypothesis, probability of breeding dispersal in females (though not in males) decreased with increasing annual average number of fledglings produced in the past year, but there was no association with conspecific reproductive performance in either sex. The site choice hypothesis, stating that individuals disperse to improve breeding site quality, received support in males only, as dispersal probability was positively associated to a measure indicating low territory quality. The social constraints hypothesis, referring to dispersal in relation to intraspecific interactions, received little support in either sex. The predation risk hypothesis was hardly supported either. Consequences of dispersal were marginal in both sexes because neither fledgling production in females, nor territory quality in males improved after dispersal. In addition, males settled on territories closer to the forest edge than those occupied predispersal, which is opposite to the prediction of the predation risk hypothesis. We conclude that own reproductive success was the major factor determining dispersal behavior in females, whereas territory quality and possibly predation risk were most important in males. Overall, breeding dispersal appeared not to be adaptive in this dense population inhabiting an optimal habitat.

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