Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 185–191 | Cite as

Breeding dispersal patterns within a large Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) colony

  • Zoltán D. SzabóEmail author
  • Tibor Szép
Original Article


Colonial birds when returning to breed to a previous location can face different settling options regarding their position in the colony. The decision could be influenced by information gained from the conspecifics’ performance, known as habitat copying. Colonial Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) cannot use evident physical cues when returning to breeding sites, as their nesting substrate is usually renewing completely. We investigated settlement decisions of breeding birds in a unique situation at a large colony along the Tisza River, Hungary, where the nesting substrate was renewed completely in two consecutive years. Breeding birds were ringed at 7-m-long sections of the colony, with totals of 6 sections in 2000 and 20 sections in 2001. Aggregation levels of philopatric birds were estimated by calculating individual distances (expressed in sections) between each recaptured bird. From 1,494 adult birds ringed in the first year, 128 individuals returned to breed in the same colony. The distance to the nearest neighbour in the year 2000 predicted the settlement distance in the next year, indicating a clear preference of breeding closer to the neighbours of the previous year than expected by chance. Age composition had an uneven distribution in the colony, as sections where no clumped resettlement occurred had fewer old individuals than the other sections. Morphological measurements were not clearly different between colony sections. This non-random settlement pattern suggests the existence of breeding groups that could disperse together without being attached to a specific colony site.


Informed dispersal Coloniality Aggregation Habitat copying Riparia riparia 



We are grateful to valuable help with fieldwork by J. Augustin, B. Habarics, Zs. Nagy, N. Szállassy and numerous volunteers of the MME/BirdLife Hungary. The study was funded by the Hungarian research council OTKA T42879 and K69068. Z.D.Sz. was supported by the Hungarian Ministry of Education through a PhD grant and a Domus Hungarica research grant.


  1. Aebischer NJ, Coulson JC (1990) Survival of the Kittiwake in relation to sex, year, breeding experience and position in the colony. J Anim Ecol 59:1063–1071CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altwegg R, Ringsby T, Saether BE (2000) Phenotypic correlates and consequences of dispersal in a metapopulation of house sparrow Passer domesticus. J Anim Ecol 69:762–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Augustin J, Blomquist D, Szép T, Szabó ZD, Wagner RH (2007) No evidence of genetic benefits from extra-pair fertilisations in female sand martins (Riparia riparia). J Ornithol 148:189–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonnet E, de Peer Y (2002) zt: a software tool for simple and partial Mantel tests. J Statist Softw 7:1–12Google Scholar
  5. Boulinier T, Danchin E (1997) The use of conspecific reproductive success for breeding patch selection in terrestrial migratory species. Evol Ecol 11:505–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown CR, Brown MB (1992) Ectoparasitism as a cause of natal dispersal in cliff swallows. Ecology 73:1718–1723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown CR, Brown MB (1996) Coloniality in the cliff swallow: the effect of group size on social behavior. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown CR, Brown MB (2000) Nest spacing in relation to settlement time in colonial cliff swallows. Anim Behav 59:47–55CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown CR, Brown MB, Danchin E (2000) Breeding habitat selection in cliff swallows: the effect of conspecific reproductive success on colony choice. J Anim Ecol 69:133–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clobert J, Danchin E, Dhondt A, Nichols JD (eds) (2001) Dispersal. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Danchin E, Cam E (2002) Can non-breeding be a cost of breeding dispersal? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51:153–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Danchin E, Boulinier T, Massot M (1998) Conspecific reproductive success and breeding habitat selection: implications for the study of coloniality. Ecology 79:2415–2428Google Scholar
  13. Danchin E, Heg D, Doligez B (2001) Public information and breeding habitat selection. In: Clobert J, Danchin E, Dhondt A, Nichols JD (eds) Dispersal. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 243–258Google Scholar
  14. Dittman T, Zinsmeister D, Becker P (2005) Dispersal decisions: common terns, Sterna hirundo, choose between colonies during prospecting. Anim Behav 70:13–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doligez B, Danchin E, Clobert J (2002) Public information and breeding habitat selection in a wild bird population. Science 297:1168–1170CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fairweather JA, Coulson JC (1995) Mate retention in the kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, and the significance of nest site tenacity. Anim Behav 50:455–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frederiksen M, Bregnballe T (2001) Conspecific reproductive success affects age of recruitment in a great cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis, colony. Proc R Soc Lond B 268:1519–1526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frederiksen M, Petersen A (1999) Philopatry and dispersal within a black guillemot colony. Waterbirds 22:274–281Google Scholar
  19. Ganter B, Cooke F (1998) Colonial nesters in a deteriorating habitat: site fidelity and colony dynamics of lesser snow geese. Auk 115:642–652Google Scholar
  20. Hoogland JL, Sherman PW (1976) Advantages and disadvantages of bank swallow (Riparia riparia) coloniality. Ecol Monogr 46:33–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jones G (1987) Colonization patterns in sand martins Riparia Riparia. Bird Study 34:20–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lessells CM, Avery MI, Krebs JR (1994) Nonrandom dispersal of kin: why do European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) brothers nest close together? Behav Ecol 5:105–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. MacColl A, Piertney S, Moss R, Lambin X (2000) Spatial arrangement of kin affects recruitment success in young male red grouse. Oikos 90:261–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mead CJ (1979) Colony fidelity and interchange in the sand martin. Bird Study 26:99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Møller AP, De Lope F (1999) Senescence in a short-lived migratory bird: age-dependent morphology, migration, reproduction and parasitism. J Anim Ecol 68:163–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mönkkönen M (1995) Do migrant bird have more pointed wings? A comparative study. Evol Ecol 9:520–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Parejo D, Oro D, Danchin E (2006) Testing habitat copying in breeding habitat selection in a species adapted to variable environments. Ibis 148:146–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Robertson RJ, Rendell WB (2001) A long-term study of reproductive performance in tree swallows: the influence of age and senescence on output. J Anim Ecol 70:1014–1031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schjørring S (2001) Ecologically determined natal philopatry within a colony of great cormorants. Behav Ecol 12:287–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. SPSS (2005) SPSS 14.0.0 for Windows. SPSS, Chicago, IllGoogle Scholar
  31. Switzer PV (1997) Past reproductive success affects future habitat selection. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 40:307–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Szép T (1999) Effects of age- and sex-biased dispersal on the estimation of survival rates of the sand martin Riparia riparia population in Hungary. Bird Study 46:169–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Szép T, Møller AP (1999) Cost of parasitism and host immune defence in the sand martin Riparia riparia: a role for parent–offspring conflict? Oecologia 119:9–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Szép T, Szabó ZD, Vallner J (2003) Integrated population monitoring of sand martin Riparia riparia––an opportunity to monitor the effects of environmental disasters along the river Tisza. Ornis Hung 12–13:169–182Google Scholar
  35. Turner AK (2004) Sand Martin. In: del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Christie D (eds) Handbook of the birds of the world, vol 9. Lynx, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  36. Wagner RH, Danchin E (2003) Conspecific copying: a general mechanism of social aggregation. Anim Behav 65:405–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wittenberger JF, Hunt GL Jr (1985) The adaptive significance of coloniality in birds. In: Farner DS, King JR (eds) Avian biology, vol 8. Academic, San Diego, pp 1–78Google Scholar
  38. Young EC (1998) Dispersal from natal territories and the origin of cooperatively polyandrous breeding groups in the brown skua. Condor 100:335–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Taxonomy and EcologyBabeş-Bolyai UniversityClujRomania
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental ScienceCollege of NyíregyházaNyíregyházaHungary
  3. 3.Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary ZoologyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary

Personalised recommendations