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The Role of Dispersal in the Great Tit (Parus major): The Causes, Consequences and Heritability of Natal Dispersal

Paul J. Greenwood, Paul H. Harvey and Christopher M. Perrins
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb., 1979), pp. 123-142
DOI: 10.2307/4105
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4105
Page Count: 20
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The Role of Dispersal in the Great Tit (Parus major): The Causes, Consequences and Heritability of Natal Dispersal
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Abstract

(1) Natal dispersal in the great tit in Wytham Wood has been examined from data collected during 1964-75. A large proportion of individuals breed close to where they were born. Females disperse more than males. The median distance of dispersal from birth to first breeding site is 558 m for males and 879 m for females. The modal number of territories moved is 1-2 in males, 2-3 in females. (2) Males that are recorded as breeding for the first time in their second year do not disperse further from their natal site than those males known to have bred in the wood in both their first and second years. (3) There are marked annual fluctuations in dispersal in males and females. Dispersal is related to population density in both sexes, negatively with distance in females, positively with the number of territories moved in males. There is less variation among females than males in the median number of territories moved each year. First year males are more likely to occupy part of their natal territory if their father died in the preceding year than if he survived. It is suggested that competition for territories is greater among males than females and that eventual natal dispersal is determined more during the time of territory establishment in the first year of breeding than during the period of post-fledgling dispersal the preceding autumn. (4) Dispersal distance in females is not related to the age or status of their mate. In males, those moving particularly long or short distances are more likely to pair with an older rather than a first year female. Although older females have a higher reproductive success than first years (Perrins & Moss 1974) we were unable to detect an equivalent advantage to those males at either end of the dispersal distribution. This may have been due to a relatively small sample size. (5) Absolute dispersal or deviations from median dispersal are not related in either sex to laying date, clutch size or number of fledglings. However those females dispersing more than the median distance are more likely to raise offspring that subsequently breed in the wood. There is a shortage of females raising one such offspring in those moving less than the median distance. (6) The probability of predation or desertion is not affected by dispersal. Likewise the rate of mortality within the wood is similar at all distances from the nestbox of birth. (7) The natal dispersal of offspring is similar to that of their parents. The estimated heritability of dispersal is 56-62%.

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