, Volume 186, Issue 1, pp 85–97 | Cite as

Insights on dispersal and recruitment paradigms: sex- and age-dependent variations in a nomadic breeder

  • Paul Acker
  • Charlotte Francesiaz
  • Arnaud Béchet
  • Nicolas Sadoul
  • Catherine M. Lessells
  • Agata S. Pijl
  • Aurélien Besnard
Population ecology – original research


Sex- and age-dependence in recruitment and dispersal are often explained by costs arising from competition for holding a breeding territory over the years—a typical feature of species living in stable habitats. For instance, long-lived birds with male territoriality often exhibit large variation in recruitment age and higher dispersal in females and young individuals. As a corollary, we expected that species with ephemeral habitat suitability, and hence nomadic breeding, would show weak age- and sex-dependence in dispersal and low variation in recruitment age, because territory ownership is not maintained over the years. In addition, the higher cost of reproduction in females might not be (over)compensated for by costs of territoriality in males. Accordingly, females would recruit later than males. We explored these variations using multievent capture–recapture models over 13 years, 3479 (2392 sexed) slender-billed gulls (Chroicocephalus genei) and 45 colony sites along the French Mediterranean coast. As expected, variability in recruitment age was low with males recruiting earlier than females. Nonetheless, dispersal in and out of the study area decreased with age and was slightly higher in males than in females. Decreased dispersal with age might result from foraging benefits associated with increased spatial familiarity. Higher dispersal in males might be explained by a male-biased sex ratio or higher philopatry benefits in females (arising from their higher cost of reproduction). Sex- and age-dependent dispersal and recruitment may thus occur in the absence of year-to-year breeding territory ownership, which stresses the importance of considering other processes in shaping recruitment and dispersal patterns.


Unstable habitats Colonial species Temporary emigration Capture–recapture Multievent models 



We are grateful to the many volunteers, ringers, and students who assisted with captures and observations at the colonies, and in particular to Christophe Pin who has been instrumental in maintaining the ring-resighting effort on the long-term. We are also grateful to Roger Pradel for his useful advice about E-SURGE and multievent modelling. The monitoring of the slender-billed gull was funded by Tour du Valat, the non-profit organisation Les Amis du Marais du Vigueirat, and the MAVA foundation. This work was supported by the French Laboratory of Excellence project ‘TULIP’ (ANR-10-LABX-41; ANR-11-IDEX-0002-02).

Author contribution statement

PA, CF, and A Besnard formulated the ideas; PA and CF performed the analyses and wrote the manuscript; NS conceived the monitoring study. NS and A Béchet were responsible for data collection; ASP performed genetic sexing; A Besnard, A Béchet, CML, and NS provided editorial advice.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 219 kb)
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Supplementary material 10 (PDF 62 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Évolution et Diversité Biologique (EDB) UMR 5174Université Paul Sabatier, CNRS, ENSFEA, IRDToulouseFrance
  2. 2.CEFE UMR 5175CNRS, PSL Research University, EPHE UM, SupAgro, IRD INRAMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Centre de Recherche de la Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  4. 4.Les Amis des Marais du Vigueirat, Marais du VigueiratArlesFrance
  5. 5.Department of Animal EcologyNetherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)WageningenThe Netherlands

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