Conspecific effect on habitat selection of a territorial cavity-nesting bird

  • publication
  • 01-09-2014

Claudio S. Quilodrán, Cristián F. Estades, and Rodrigo A. Vásquez. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 09/2014; 126:534-543. DOI: 10.1676/13-108.1

The simulated presence of conspecifics has been proposed to attract territorial songbirds to protect nesting areas when the habitat is being disturbed by human activities. We studied the effects of conspecifics on the nest-site selection of the Thorn-tailed Rayadito (Aphrastura spinicauda; Furnariidae), a forest songbird that depends on cavities for nesting.Plantations represent usable habitat for foraging, but the scarcity of cavities restricts their use during the breeding period. The use of nest boxes is a documented measure to mitigate the negative effect of plantations on cavity users. We installed nest boxes in a plantation ofPinus radiata in south-central Chile, using the simulated presence of conspecifics as a potential tool to attract rayaditos to new available sites to nest. We simulated the presence of conspecifics through playback during 45 days prior nest building. Our results showed two contrasting outcomes. Firstly, conspecific simulation attracts rayaditos, by increasing their density before playback experiments by 75%. Secondly, rayaditos tended to avoid playback treatment sites as nesting started. The establishment of nests occurred 71%of the time and started 20 days earlier in control sites compared to playback treatment. Other secondary cavity-nesting birds, such as the House Wren (Troglodytes aedon;Troglodytidae) andWhite-throated Tree runner (Pygarrhichas albogularis; Furnariidae), also avoided playback plots as nesting sites. The scarcity of cavities in pine plantations may increase the aggressive defense of breeding territories, making cavity-nesting birds move to other previously known vacant sites to nest when they listen other birds in the nesting site. It is highly recommended to assess the behavioral response to conspecific and heterospecific birds before the establishment of a management measure aiming to attract or discourage the presence of a target species.

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