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The Role of Territory Choice, Mate Choice and Arrival Date on Breeding Success in the Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides

Adrian Aebischer, Nicolas Perrin, Myriam Krieg, Jacques Studer and Dietrich R. Meyer
Journal of Avian Biology
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Jun., 1996), pp. 143-152
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3677143
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3677143
Page Count: 10
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The Role of Territory Choice, Mate Choice and Arrival Date on Breeding Success in the Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
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Abstract

We investigated how territory quality, settlement date and morphometry affected several components of yearly breeding success of a Swiss population of Savi's Warblers Locustella luscinioides. Territories occupied by males differed from unoccupied sites of similar size and location by having higher and denser reeds, a more extensive straw litter, and a thicker cover of dead sedge leaves. Territories with these characteristics were the ones first chosen by males upon spring arrival. These males, however, did not differ in morphometry from those that arrived later. Availability of suitable nesting sites, rather than food availability, appears to be an important choice criterion for territories. Early arriving males had higher breeding success than late males because of a higher mating success and more successful clutches. The positive correlation between male breeding success and territory quality was thus mediated through their common dependence on occupancy date. Female breeding success decreased with the date of first-clutch laying, mainly because late-nesting females fledged fewer broods. Breeding success in either sex did not correlate with morphometry. Our results provide clear support for territory choice by males, but not for mate or territory choice by females, and show the crucial role played by individual settlement date on many aspects of the breeding cycle of both sexes. We propose a lottery model of mate choice: arriving females obtain the best available territories even without choosing mates or territories; since males occupy territories sequentially and in order of decreasing quality, the few unpaired males available at any moment also occupy the best available territories.

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