Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 505-517

First online:

The use of conspecific reproductive success for breeding patch selection in terrestrial migratory species

  • Thierry BoulinierAffiliated withInstitut d’Ecologie, CNRS - URA 258, Université Pierre et Marie Curie
  • , Etienne DanchinAffiliated withInstitut d’Ecologie, CNRS - URA 258, Université Pierre et Marie Curie

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Classical models of breeding habitat selection rarely deal with the question of information gathering for patch quality assessment. In this paper, we present two models comparing the fitness outcomes of behavioural strategies based on conspecific reproductive success as a cue to assess local environmental quality before selecting a new breeding habitat. The models deal with two phases of the life-cycle of a territorial migratory species: recruitment to a breeding population (model 1) and breeding site fidelity of subsequent breeding attempts (model 2). The first model shows that prospecting breeding patches before recruiting is the best strategy if the environment is predictable and contains a low proportion of good patches, even if it implies losing a breeding opportunity. The second model shows that dispersing after a breeding attempt according to the patch’s breeding success rather than the individual’s own success is the best strategy if the environment is patchy. These results underline the importance of studying the spatio-temporal variations of factors affecting reproductive success when considering the importance of habitat selection strategies based on conspecifics. Moreover, they allow the understanding of individual behaviour patterns observed in natural populations and their potential consequences at the metapopulation level.


colonial breeding conspecific attraction dispersal habitat selection metapopulation patchiness predictability prospecting site fidelity