Nest prospecting, that is, visiting potential future nest sites, may be a widespread bird behavior. Here we describe apparent prospecting while nesting by white-rumped swallows (Hirundinidae, Aves). In southern Brazil, birds tagged with passive-integrated transponders (PIT-tags) and breeding in nest boxes with PIT-tag readers: (1) often visited nest boxes that were in use by apparently unrelated birds (54 % of nests were visited at least once), (2) visited other boxes while caring for their own nestlings, (3) tended to have smaller broods than birds that were not recorded visiting, and (4) did not have a preference for any particular box. These patterns do not indicate any clear explanation for nest visiting, but they do show that prospecting is done by floaters (non-breeders) as well as actively breeding individuals. We suggest that these visits occur when time is available and that visitors may be assessing the availability of future nest sites.
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We thank the Brazilian government agency Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for scholarships to UW and FMS; SANEPAR and the Environmental Institute of Paraná (IAP) for permits to work in the study areas; CEMAVE for banding licenses; the Graduate Program of Ecology and Conservation of the Federal University of Paraná for support; Eli Bridge for technical assistance on construction and programming of RFID equipment; and João Batista Pinho, Lilian Tonelli Manica, Robert Thomson, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript.
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