Can non-breeding be a cost of breeding dispersal?
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Breeding habitat selection and dispersal are crucial processes that affect many components of fitness. Breeding dispersal entails costs, one of which has been neglected: dispersing animals may miss breeding opportunities because breeding dispersal requires finding a new nesting site and mate, two time- and energy-consuming activities. Dispersers are expected to be prone to non-breeding. We used the kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) to test whether breeding dispersal influences breeding probability. Breeding probability was associated with dispersal, in that both were negatively influenced by private information (previous individual reproductive success) and public information (average reproductive success of conspecifics) about patch quality. Furthermore, the probability of skipping breeding was 1.7 times higher in birds that settled in a new patch relative to those that remained on the same patch. Finally, non-breeders that resumed breeding were 4.4 times more likely to disperse than birds that bred in successive years. Although private information may influence breeding probability directly, the link between breeding probability and public information may be indirect, through the influence of public information on breeding dispersal, non-breeding thus being a cost of dispersal. These results support the hypothesis that dispersal may result in not being able to breed. More generally, non-breeding (which can be interpreted as an extreme form of breeding failure) may reveal costs of various previous activities. Because monitoring the non-breeding portion of a population is difficult, non-breeders have been neglected in many studies of reproduction trade-offs.
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