Nest site preference depends on the relative density of conspecifics and heterospecifics in wild birds

Jelmer M. Samplonius*, Iris M Kromhout Van Der Meer, Christiaan Both

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

11 Citaten (Scopus)
237 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Social learning allows animals to eavesdrop on ecologically relevant knowledge of competitors in their environment. This is especially important when selecting a habitat if individuals have relatively little personal information on habitat quality. It is known that birds can use both conspecific and heterospecific information for social learning, but little is known about the relative importance of each information type. If provided with the choice between them, we expected that animals should copy the behaviour of conspecifics, as these confer the best information for that species. We tested this hypothesis in the field for Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca arriving at their breeding grounds to select a nest box for breeding. We assigned arbitrary symbols to nest boxes of breeding pied flycatchers (conspecifics) and blue and great tits, Cyanistes caeruleus and Parus major (heterospecifics), in 2014 and 2016 in two areas with different densities of tits and flycatchers. After ca 50% of flycatchers had returned and a flycatcher symbol was assigned to their nest box, we gave the later arriving flycatchers the choice between empty nest boxes with either a conspecific (flycatcher) or a heterospecific (tit) symbol.

Results: As expected, Pied Flycatchers copied the perceived nest box choice of conspecifics, but only in areas that were dominated by flycatchers. Against our initial expectation, flycatchers copied the perceived choice of heterospecifics in the area heavily dominated by tits, even though conspecific minority information was present.

Conclusions: Our results confirm that the relative density of conspecifics and heterospecifics modulates the propensity to copy or reject novel behavioural traits. By contrasting conspecific and heterospecific ecology in the same study design we were able to draw more general conclusions about the role of fluctuating densities on social information use.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's8
TijdschriftFrontiers in Zoology
StatusPublished - 20-dec-2017

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