In migratory birds individuals may prospect for potential breeding sites months before they attempt to breed and should use the cues most predictive of future reproductive success when selecting a breeding site. However, what cues individuals use when prospecting and which cues are used in selecting a breeding site are unknown for most species. I investigated whether yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) prospect for future breeding sites and whether they select breeding habitats based on food availability, male or female density, or the average number of young produced per female in the previous year. Although it is often assumed that migratory birds prospect for potential breeding sites at the end of the breeding season, I investigated this by recording all visits to sites early and late in the breeding season. I found that males and females who visited sites other than the site at which they bred were more likely to disperse than individuals only observed at the site where they bred, and that males and females were more likely to prospect late in the breeding season. Both food availability and density in year x were not predictive of the number of young per female in year x+1; however, the number of young produced per female at a site in year x was predictive of the number of young per female in year x+1. As expected, dispersers used the most informative cue, the number of young per female and moved to sites with a relatively high number of young per female. This study suggests that individuals prospect for potential breeding sites late in the breeding season when they can use information gathered from the reproductive success of other individuals (i.e., public information) to select a breeding site.
- Food availability
- Reproductive success
- Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics