Skip to main content

Social environment influences termination of nomadic migration

Cite this dataset

Watts, Heather; Robart, Ashley; Zuñiga, Hilary; Navarro, Guillermo (2022). Social environment influences termination of nomadic migration [Dataset]. Dryad.


The final stage of migration, when animals terminate migratory movements and transition to a more sedentary state, remains the least understood phase of migration. Whereas migrants that return to the same locations each year may use mechanisms associated with locating a specific destination, migrants with low site fidelity, such as nomadic migrants, may rely on local environmental cues to determine when to cease migratory movements. Using an experiment with captive birds, we tested whether the presence of a conspecific influences the termination of migration, indicated by changes in behaviour and physiology, in a nomadic migrant (the pine siskin, Spinus pinus). We paired migratory birds with a non-migratory individual or left migratory and non-migratory individuals unpaired. Migratory paired birds had a significant decline in nocturnal activity immediately after pairing and activity levels remained lower two weeks later, with significant declines in energetic reserves and flight muscle size also observed. In contrast, migratory unpaired birds maintained high levels of activity and energetic reserves. These results provide evidence for a role of the social environment in migratory termination decisions. Social cues may be particularly useful in nomadic migrants, such as pine siskins, to facilitate settling in high quality, but unfamiliar, habitats.


Data were collected from captive pine siskins (Spinus pinus). Behavioral data were collected from video recordings of birds between 23:00 – 3:00 using instantaneous scan sampling at 5-min intervals. The frequency of jumping, flight, fast wing beating, and beak up hopping behaviors were summed to calculate the proportion of time that each bird engaged in locomotor behavior. For each individual and phase of the experiment (Pre, Initial, and Final), behavioral data were averaged across two nights of recording. Birds were weighed on an electronic balance to the nearest 0.01 g to measure body mass. Furcular and abdominal fat deposits were visually scored on a scale from 0 to 5 and summed to estimate fat deposits. Flight muscle size was scored visually on a scale from 0 to 3. Principal components analysis implemented in JMP Pro 14.0 was used to distill mass and summed fat score into a single variable - the first principal component. 

Usage notes

All metadata are provided in Robart_et_al_PineSiskin_SettlementSocialEnv_Readme.txt


National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1456954

National Science Foundation, Award: IOS- 1756976

National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1755245