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-beaded 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.

1 Follower
  • Source
    • "In many instances, application of auditory experimental or management treatments is done most efficiently using automated systems that can be programmed to operate without a human present (Ward and Schlossberg 2004, Fletcher 2007, 2009; Betts et al. 2008; Zanette et al. 2011). "
    [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
    • "Settlement patterns by some birds are associated with proximity of conspecifics, which act as indicators of local habitat quality (Valone 1989, Danchin and Doligez 2001). Black-capped vireos have been shown to cluster on the landscape, attracted to conspecific cues (Ward and Schlossberg 2004, McFarland et al. 2013). When the population was small and clustered across the refuge, the vireos would not have occupied all potential habitat. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We used a long-term data set of black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) detection locations collected between May and June of 1990 through 2005 within the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, USA, to determine how presence-only distribution models change as a population expands to help focus conservation and management activities. We used MaxEnt to model black-capped vireo habitat suitability for each of 4 years using detection data and several remotely sensed habitat metrics, including soil type, slope, and elevation. We assessed how well each model fit the detection data, what metrics vireos were using, and how well each model predicted occupancy across time. We found that as the vireo population increased, vireos began occupying a wider range of landscape characteristics. As a result, the models predicted more area with high suitability as the population grew. Similarly, we found that a model's ability to predict vireo occupancy in future years decreased with time, with low predictability even 5 years out. The combination of a secluded study site and specific aspects of this species' behavior likely accounted for the poor performance of our models at predicting areas into which vireos would expand over time. We conclude that habitat models should consider population status and be used with caution to predict areas of future occupancy if the population is currently expanding. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.
    Wildlife Society Bulletin 10/2014; 39(1). DOI:10.1002/wsb.497 · 1.27 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Similar patterns are found across a broad range of animal taxa, including lizards, birds and mammals (Stamps 1988 , Hoeck 1989 , Weddell 1991 , Gautier et al. 2006 ). The influence on population dynamics can lead to aggregation of territories, empty suitable habitat and increased extinction risk of patches (Ward and Schlossberg 2004 ). Beyond considerations of habitat management, conspecific attraction could be used to actively manipulate spatial distribution for conservation purposes (Ahlering et al. 2010 ). "
    [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
Show more


Available from