Natal and breeding dispersal in the mount White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys oriantha.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) Science Article 1


Dispersal data were collected on Mountain White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys oriantha, an open-nesting migratory songbird breeding in high elevation meadows of the Sierra Nevada of California. Young birds began to move soon after fledging. Although some remained on their meadow of birth until migration, most moved away. During this post-fledging period juveniles could have been locating future breeding areas. Especially in malemale that remained near the natal site, the rate of return as adults was very high (28.5%). Juveniles may have also been searching out favourable areas for foraging during this time. For most young birds, especially females, the final phase of natal dispersal and selection of a breeding site probably did not occur until the pre-breeding period, the time between arrival from wintering areas as one-year-olds to settling on territory. Between-year breeding dispersal distance for the population did not vary inter-annually (n = 15), although gender differences were detectable. Males tended to be more site-tenacious than females. For example, dispersal distance decreased significantly with age in females and increased when they changed rather than retained mates between years. The same trends occurred in males but the differences were not significant. When within-year breeding dispersal occurred following loss of a nest or fledging of young, the pair remained together and renested on the same territory. Dispersal distance did not vary according to reason for nest failure or with nesting success, it is speculated that dispersal behaviours in Z. l. oriantha may be influenced by their use of small, scattered meadows-the ecological equivalent of islands-for breeding habitat.

Morton M.L., ARDEA 85 (1): 145-154.

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