Conspecific Attraction and the Conservation of Territorial Songbirds

Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 61820, Champaign, IL
Conservation Biology (Impact Factor: 4.32). 03/2004; 18(2):519 - 525. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00494.x

ABSTRACT  Conspecific attraction, the tendency for individuals of a species to settle near one another, is well described in colonial species, especially birds. Although this behavior may occur in territorial birds, evidence has been lacking. If territorial birds do exhibit this behavior, it would have major conservation implications. Birds could potentially be attracted to specific sites with artificial stimuli, making conservation of those species more efficient. In 2001 and 2002, we tested whether conspecific attraction occurs in an endangered, territorial songbird, the Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla) by playing vireo vocalizations in unoccupied habitats at Fort Hood, Texas. We were successful in attracting 73 birds to five experimental sites in 2001 and 75 birds to seven experimental sites in 2002. No birds settled on comparable control sites. Many birds attracted to the vocalizations paired and bred. At most research sites the primary threat to the species, the brood-parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), was controlled, allowing vireos to achieve high nesting success relative to a nearby, unmanipulated population. Second-year birds were more responsive to conspecific vocalizations than older birds, as they were more common on experimental sites than in the established population. In 2002 birds recolonized experimental sites from 2001 where vocalizations were not played in 2002, indicating that 1 year of playbacks may be sufficient to establish a population. Our results provide the first experimental evidence that territorial songbirds use the presence of conspecifics when deciding where to settle and suggest that conspecific attraction may provide a valuable conservation tool.Resumen: La atracción conespecífica, tendencia de los individuos de una especie a establecerse cerca de otro de la misma especie, está bien descrita en especies coloniales, especialmente aves. Aunque este comportamiento puede ocurrir en aves territoriales, se carece de evidencia. Si aves territoriales muestran este comportamiento, tendría implicaciones mayores en la conservación. Las aves potencialmente serían atraídas a sitios específicos mediante estímulos artificiales, haciendo más eficiente la conservación de esas especies. En 2001 y 2002, probamos si ocurre la atracción conespecífica en una especie de ave canora territorial, en peligro, Vireo atricapilla, con la reproducción de vocalizaciones de vireo en hábitats desocupados en Fort Hood, Texas. Tuvimos éxito al atraer a 73 aves a cinco sitios experimentales en 2001 y 75 aves a siete sitios experimentales en 2002. No se establecieron aves en sitios controles comparables. Muchas de las aves atraídas a las vocalizaciones formaron pareja y se reprodujeron. En la mayoría de los sitios, la principal amenaza para la especie, el parásito Molothrus ater, fue controlada, lo que permitió un elevado éxito de anidación a los vireos en comparación con una población no manipulada cercana. Las aves de dos años tuvieron mayor respuesta a las vocalizaciones conespecíficas que las aves más viejas, porque fueron más comunes en los sitios experimentales que en la población establecida. En 2002 aves recolonizaron sitios experimentales de 2001 en los que no se reprodujeron vocalizaciones en 2002, lo que indica que 1 año de repetición de vocalizaciones puede ser suficiente para establecer una población. Nuestros resultados proporcionan las primeras pruebas experimentales de que aves canoras territoriales utilizan la presencia de conespecíficos al decidir donde se establecen y sugieren que la atracción conespecífica puede ser una valiosa herramienta de conservación.

1 Follower
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Automated sound broadcast systems have been used to address a variety of ecological questions, and show great potential as a management tool. Such systems need to be reliable because treatments are often applied in the absence of a human observer and system failure can cause methodological ambiguity. During the breeding seasons of 2012 and 2013, we used a sound broadcast system previously described by Farrell and Campomizzi (2011) in an experiment evaluating the use of post-breeding song in forest-bird habitat selection in southern Indiana, USA. This system incorporates a portable compact disc (CD) player where the play button is permanently depressed using manual compression so that when a timer connects an electrical current to the unit, the CD player automatically starts. Despite exhaustive efforts to find a reliable way to manually compress the play button on numerous CD player models, play button failure was the most significant source of broadcast system failure (88%) in 2012. We attempted to resolve this problem in 2013 by removing the need for manual compression and soldering the play button contact poles on each CD players' integrated circuit boards. Though we did experience broadcast system failures during <5% of treatment periods in 2013, none of those were attributable to play button failure. By removing all possibility of failure from manual play button compression we improved our system reliability. Thus, soldering the CD player play button on such broadcast systems represents a methodological improvement that can be used by researchers and managers interested in sound broadcast. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.
    Wildlife Society Bulletin 12/2014; 38(4). DOI:10.1002/wsb.468 · 1.27 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Understanding habitat selection and assessing habitat quality have an important role in habitat management and prioritisation of areas for protection. However, interpretations of habitat selection and habitat quality can be confounded by social effects such as conspecific attraction. Using 7 years’ data from a well monitored Great Bustard Otis tarda population in Central Europe, we investigated the roles of human disturbance and social cues in display site selection of male Great Bustards Otis tarda . The spatial distribution of displaying males was best predicted by human disturbance. In addition, the number of males attending display sites was strongly correlated to the number of females present and not with disturbance. This suggests that abundance could be a misleading metric for habitat quality in social species. Our results highlight the roles of disturbance and social cues in male habitat choice, and suggest that social factors need to be taken into consideration for management of endangered populations.
    Bird Conservation International 03/2014; 24(1):32-44. DOI:10.1017/S0959270913000142 · 1.55 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Abstract Many animal populations are in decline as a result of human activity. Conservation practitioners are attempting to prevent further declines and loss of biodiversity as well as to facilitate recovery of endangered species, and they often rely on interdisciplinary approaches to generate conservation solutions. Two recent interfaces in conservation science involve animal behavior (i.e., conservation behavior) and physiology (i.e., conservation physiology). To date, these interfaces have been considered separate entities, but from both pragmatic and biological perspectives, there is merit in better integrating behavior and physiology to address applied conservation problems and to inform resource management. Although there are some institutional, conceptual, methodological, and communication-oriented challenges to integrating behavior and physiology to inform conservation actions, most of these barriers can be overcome. Through outlining several successful examples that integrate these disciplines, we conclude that physiology and behavior can together generate meaningful data to support animal conservation and management actions. Tangentially, applied conservation and management problems can, in turn, also help advance and reinvigorate the fundamental disciplines of animal physiology and behavior by providing advanced natural experiments that challenge traditional frameworks.
    Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 01/2014; 87(1):1-14. DOI:10.1086/671165 · 2.05 Impact Factor


Available from