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Empirical tests of habitat selection theory reveal that conspecific density and patch quality, but not habitat amount, drive long-distance immigration in a wild bird

Citation

Rushing, Clark et al. (2022), Empirical tests of habitat selection theory reveal that conspecific density and patch quality, but not habitat amount, drive long-distance immigration in a wild bird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.qrfj6q5f5

Abstract

Individuals that disperse long distances from their natal site must select breeding patches with no prior knowledge of patch suitability. Despite decades of theoretical studies examining which cues dispersing individuals should use to select breeding patches, few empirical studies have tested the predictions of these theories at spatial scales relevant to long-distance dispersal in wild animal populations. Here, we use a novel assignment model based on multiple intrinsic markers to quantify natal dispersal distances of Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) breeding in forest fragments. We show that long-distance natal dispersal in this species is more frequent than commonly assumed for songbirds and that habitat selection by these individuals is driven by density-dependence and patch quality but not the amount of habitat surrounding breeding patches. These results represent an important contribution to understanding habitat selection by dispersing individuals, especially with regards to long-distance dispersal.

Funding

Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, Award: RC-2121