, Volume 107, Issue 2, pp 204-211

Temporal and spatial variation in dispersal in the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus)

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Abstract

We studied movements of individually marked greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus) born in the Camargue, southern France, between their two most important breeding colonies in the western Mediterranean (Camargue and Fuente de Piedra, Spain) from 1986 to 1992. The two sites differ in the frequency with which they offer suitable conditions for breeding. Flamingos have bred each year in the Camargue since 1974, but in only 12 of the past 22 years at Fuente de Piedra. Higher colony fidelity is thus expected in the less variable environment (Camargue), but if dispersal occurs competition might be an important factor causing this dispersal. Following years during which breeding birds in the Camrgue were disturbed (1988 and 1990) a higher proportion of adults changed colonies between breeding attempts (= breeding dispersal, 12.4%), while only 0.4% of flamingos breeding in the Camargue dispersed in the other years. As expected, flamingos breeding at Fuente de Piedra showed a higher rate of breeding dispersal (8.14%). No differences were observed between males and females. The importance of breeding failure as a factor causing breeding dispersal in flamingos was also confirmed by the movements of individual birds. The proportion of young flamingos that moved from their natal colony to start breeding at Fuente de Piedra (= natal dispersal) was independent of sex and age, but increased when breeding access to the Camargue colony was more difficult. However, natal dispersal was also higher in 1988 and 1990 (40.5%) than in the remaining years (1.2%), as was breeding dispersal. We discuss possible ways in which the increased natal dispersal among inexperienced birds could be linked with the increased breeding dispersal of adults in the same year.