Original Article

Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 4, pp 553-564

Breeding ecology and nest site selection in allopatric mainland Citril Finches Carduelis [citrinella] citrinella and insular Corsican Finches Carduelis [citrinella] corsicanus

  • Marc I. FörschlerAffiliated withVogelwarte Radolfzell, Max Planck Institute for OrnithologyNatural History MuseumDepartment of Experimental Ecology, University of Ulm Email author 
  • , Elisabeth K. V. KalkoAffiliated withDepartment of Experimental Ecology, University of Ulm

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Abstract

The breeding ecology and nest site selection of mainland Citril Finches and insular Corsican Finches have been studied throughout their limited range. For many years both endemic forms were considered to be two sub-species; however, based on evidence from more recent molecular studies they have been split into two species. This study provides data on the variations in breeding ecology and nest site selection in the different sub-populations of these little studied species. A secondary aim was to search out evidence of ecological differentiation between mainland Citril Finches and insular Corsican Finches. We found that the studied sub-populations of both species largely overlapped in breeding ecology. Our data confirms the close similarity of Citril Finches and Corsican Finches, both which are, similar to mountain birds, well adapted to the local habitat conditions of their different mountain systems. Several differences were identified within the studied sub-populations of the two (sub-) species with respect to nest site selection, probably caused by environmental conditions and local predators. One of the main differences between the two species is that Citril Finches breed mainly in half-open conifer forests (especially pine forests), while Corsican Finches breed in the more open scrubby mountains of the Mediterranean islands dominated mainly by the Tree Heath as an adaptation to the different landscapes on the islands. In contrast to Citril Finches, this preference of the Corsican Finches for Tree Heath as nesting plants – even if suitable pines are available – is typical of the species. These behavioural changes result in a niche expansion into open habitats at lower altitudes. We suggest that the observed niche expansion and behavioural variations are not suitable criteria for taxonomic status, a proposal in contrast to that of Sangster [Ibis 142:487–490 (2000)]. We further suggest that the few ecological differences found in this study between the two (sub-)species are the result of the so-called insular syndrome, which includes changes in life history traits such as morphology, demography and behaviour.

Keywords

Allopatry Breeding ecology Citril Finch Corsican Finch Insular syndrome Nest site selection Niche expansion