Behavioural cues surpass habitat factors in explaining prebreeding resource selection by a migratory diving duck

Animal Behaviour
By: , and 

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Abstract

Prebreeding habitat selection in birds can often be explained in part by habitat characteristics. However, females may also select habitats on the basis of fidelity to areas of previous reproductive success or use by conspecifics. The relative influences of sociobehavioural attributes versus habitat characteristics in habitat selection has been primarily investigated in songbirds, while less is known about how these factors affect habitat selection processes in migratory waterfowl. Animal resource selection models often exhibit much unexplained variation; spatial patterns driven by social and behavioural characteristics may account for some of this. We radiomarked female lesser scaup, Aythya affinis, in the southwestern extent of their breeding range to explore hypotheses regarding relative roles of habitat quality, site fidelity and conspecific density in prebreeding habitat selection. We used linear mixed-effects models to relate intensity of use within female home ranges to habitat features, distance to areas of reproductive success during the previous breeding season and conspecific density. Home range habitats included shallow water (≤118 cm), moderate to high densities of flooded emergent vegetation/open water edge and open water areas with submerged aquatic vegetation. Compared with habitat features, conspecific female density and proximity to successful nesting habitats from the previous breeding season had greater influences on habitat use within home ranges. Fidelity and conspecific attraction are behavioural characteristics in some waterfowl species that may exert a greater influence than habitat features in influencing prebreeding space use and habitat selection within home ranges, particularly where quality habitat is abundant. These processes may be of critical importance to a better understanding of habitat selection in breeding birds.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Behavioural cues surpass habitat factors in explaining prebreeding resource selection by a migratory diving duck
Series title Animal Behaviour
DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.01.004
Volume 90
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center, Contaminant Biology Program
Description 9 p.
First page 21
Last page 29
Country United States
State Montana
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