Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp 625–633 | Cite as

Kin aggression and resource availability influence phenotype-dependent dispersal in a passerine bird

  • Stepfanie M. Aguillon
  • Renée A. DuckworthEmail author
Original Paper


Understanding the causes of dispersal is important as it strongly influences population dynamics and evolution. However, context dependency of dispersal decisions, such as effects of social interactions and resource availability, is rarely disentangled from intrinsic factors, such as animal personality. Western bluebirds provide a unique opportunity to investigate the relative importance of intrinsic versus extrinsic factors in dispersal decisions because they display distinct aggressive personality types, have high recruitment of sons to the natal population, and depend on nest cavities, a resource that is easy to quantify. Here, we measured territorial interactions among kin and non-kin, resource availability, and aggressive behavior over an 11-year period to determine how they influenced dispersal decisions of male offspring. We found that distance dispersed from kin was driven by a male’s own aggression, the aggression of his nearest kin, and the resources available on the natal territory. Both aggressive males and males with aggressive kin dispersed longer distances, as did males who had fewer resources on their natal territories. Thus, dispersal in this species is influenced jointly by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Because resource acquisition and personality type are interdependent in this species, changes in the social environment are likely to have important consequences for population dynamics.


Phenotype-dependent dispersal Personality Kin interactions Resource availability Aggression Sialia mexicana 



We thank S. Anderson, A. Badyaev, C. Gurguis, D. Higginson, E. Morrison, P.-O. Montiglio, and P. Edelaar for the insightful comments which improved this manuscript. We also thank the members of Mountain Bluebird Trails and residents of the Hayes Creek neighborhood for kindly allowing us to monitor nests on their properties. This work was supported by US National Science Foundation grants (DEB-0918095 and DEB-1350107 to RAD) and the US National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. DGE 1143953 to SMA.

Ethical standards

This research was conducted under permits to RAD and complies with the current laws and ethical guidelines of the USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Corson HallCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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