Testing for conspecific attraction in an obligate saltmarsh bird: Can behavior be used to aid marsh restoration?
Understanding mechanisms that promote colonization by target species is critical to advancing the success of coastal wetland restoration. Recent work in avian behavioral ecology suggests that social cues might influence settlement decisions in a range of species, however little is known about the extent to which social mechanisms might influence settlement decisions for those inhabiting coastal wetlands. In this study, we tested whether or not the saltmarsh sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), an obligate saltmarsh species of conservation concern, uses conspecific attraction to make habitat selection decisions. Despite previous research suggesting a potential role for auditory conspecific cues in sparrow settlement decisions, we found no evidence that saltmarsh sparrows respond to them in two distinct experiments. Playing saltmarsh sparrow vocalizations at 11 sites with very low saltmarsh sparrow densities did not change numbers from those observed in prior years. In a controlled experiment at marshes with high saltmarsh sparrow densities, numbers of adults, nests, and fledglings were similar at control and experimental plots. The results of this study suggest that auditory conspecific cues are not an important component of habitat settlement decisions for this species and are unlikely to facilitate the colonization of unoccupied habitat.
KeywordsSalt marsh Restoration Avian habitat selection Conspecific attraction Audio broadcast Ammodramus caudacutus
We thank the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Madison Land Trust, and Guilford Land Conservation Trust for allowing us access to their properties; C. Lewis and T. Steeves for assisting with field work; J. Fieth, C. Field, and the Borror Lab of Bioacoustics at Ohio State University for use of sparrow recordings; C. Field and A. Borowske for access to unpublished information; and S. Meiman for making Fig. 1. E.S. Adams, R. Chazdon, J.M. Reed, K. Wells, the associate editor, and two anonymous reviewers provided comments that greatly improved the final draft. Graham Morfitt at Modern Outpost provided invaluable assistance in developing the solar broadcast prototype. T.S.B. was supported by funds from the University of Connecticut, including the Manter Fund, George Clark Jr. Endowment and Center for Conservation and Biodiversity, as well as funds from the American Museum of Natural History Frank M. Chapman Award, the Animal Behavior Society Student Research Award, the Cooper Ornithological Society Mewaldt-King Award, the Garden Club of America Francis M. Peacock Award, the Quebec-Labrador Foundation Sounds Conservancy Grant, and the Wilson Ornithological Society’s Paul A. Stewart Award.
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