Heterospecific attraction and food resources in migrants' breeding patch selection in northern boreal forest
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We studied experimentally how heterospecific attraction may affect habitat selection of migrant passerine birds in Finnish Lapland. We manipulated the densities of resident tit species (Parus spp.). In four study plots residents were removed before the arrival of the migrants in the first study year, and in four other plots their densities were increased by releasing caught individuals. In the second year the treatments of the areas were reversed, allowing paired comparisons within each plot. We also investigated the relative abundance of arthropods in the study plots by the sweep-net method. This allowed us to estimate the effect of food resources on the abundance of birds. The heterospecific attraction hypothesis predicts that densities of migrant species (especially habitat generalists) would be higher during increased resident density. Results supported this prediction. Densities and number of the most abundant migrant species were significantly higher when resident density was increased than when they were removed. On the species level the redwing (Turdus iliacus) showed the strongest positive response to the increased abundance of tits. Migrant bird abundances seemed not to vary in parallel with relative arthropod abundance, with the exception of the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) which showed a strongly positive correlation with many arthropod groups. The results of the experiment indicate that migrants can use resident tit species as a cue to a profitable breeding patch. The relationship between the abundance of the birds and arthropods suggests that annual changes in food resources during the breeding season probably do not have a very important effect on bird populations in these areas. The results stress the importance of positive interspecific interactions in structuring northern breeding bird communities.