Mechanisms and fitness effects of interspecific information use between migrant and resident birds

  • Forsman J
  • Thomson R
  • Seppänen J
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Interactions with potential competitors are an important component of habitat quality. Due to the costs of coexistence with competitors, a breeding habitat selection strategy that avoids competitors is expected to be favored. However, many migratory birds appear to gain benefits from an attraction to the presence of resident birds, even though residents are assumed to be competitively dominant. Thus far the mechanisms of this habitat selection process, heterospecific attraction, are unknown, and the consequences for resident birds of migrant attraction remain untested. Through heterospecific attraction, migrants may gain benefits if the density or territory location of residents positively reflects habitat quality, and/or they gain benefits through increased frequency of social interactions with residents in foraging or predator detection. In this experiment, we examined the reciprocal effects of spatial proximity on fitness-related traits in migrant pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) and resident great tit (Parus major) by experimentally forcing them to breed either alone or in close proximity to each other. Surprisingly, great tits bore all the costs of coexistence while flycatchers were unaffected, even gaining slight benefits. In concert with an earlier study, these results suggest that flycatchers use tits as information about good-quality nest-site locations while benefits from social interactions with tits are possible but less important. We suggest that utilizing interspecific social information may be a common phenomenon between species sharing similar resource needs. Our results imply that the effects of interspecific information use can be asymmetric and may therefore have implications for the patterns and consequences of species coexistence.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cavity nesting birds
  • Habitat selection
  • Interspecific competition
  • Nest-site selection
  • Resident and migrant birds
  • Social information
  • Species interactions

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  • Robert ThomsonUniversity of Cape Town Department of Biological Sciences

  • Jukka T. Forsman

  • Janne Tuomas Seppänen

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