An experimental test of information use by North American wood ducks (Aix sponsa): external habitat cues, not social visual cues, influence initial nest-site selection
Cite this dataset
Eadie, John; Berg, Elena (2022). An experimental test of information use by North American wood ducks (Aix sponsa): external habitat cues, not social visual cues, influence initial nest-site selection [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.25338/B8VK6C
Birds may use a variety of cues to select a nest site, including external information on habitat structure and nest site characteristics, or they may rely instead on social information obtained directly or indirectly from the actions of conspecifics. We used an experimental manipulation to determine the extent to which a California population of the wood duck (Aix sponsa) used social information gleaned from visual cues inside nest boxes that might indicate the quality or occupancy of that site. Over two nesting seasons, we manipulated the contents of newly installed boxes to simulate one of three states: (1) presence of wood duck eggs, indicating current use of a nest site; (2) presence of down and shell membranes, indicating a previously successful nest; and (3) control nests with fresh shavings indicating an unused box. In addition, we measured habitat characteristics of the area surrounding each box to assess the use of external, non-social information about each nest site. We found no evidence that females laid eggs preferentially, or that conspecific brood parasitism was more likely to occur, in any of the treatments. In contrast, nest site use and reproductive traits of wood ducks did vary with vegetation cover, and orientation and distance of the box from water. Our results suggest that personal information, not social information, influence initial nest site selection decisions when females are unfamiliar with a site. Social cues likely become increasingly important once nest sites develop their own history, and a population becomes well established.
Field experiment on use of social information in nest site selection by wood ducks. Nest contents were experimentally manipulated and female wood duck resposnses were monitiored (use, timing, reproductive success) in a 2-year experiment at 2 study sites near Davis California.
University of California at Davis
NSF RTG in Animal Behavior
Sigma-Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research Award
NSF IOS, Award: 1355208
National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: WFB-6342-H
Dennis G. Raveling Endowed Chair
Putah Creek Council
California Waterfowl Association