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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Predation and infanticide influence ideal free choice by a parrot occupying heterogeneous tropical habitats

  • Author(s): Bonebrake, Timothy C.
  • Beissinger, Steven R.
  • et al.

The ideal free distribution (IFD) predicts that organisms will disperse to sites that maximize their fitness based on availability of resources. Habitat heterogeneity underlies resource variation and influences spatial variation in demography and the distribution of populations. We relate nest site productivity at multiple scales measured over a decade to habitat quality in a box-nesting population of Forpus passerinus (green-rumped parrotlets) in Venezuela to examine critical IFD assumptions. Variation in reproductive success at the local population and neighborhood scales had a much larger influence on productivity (fledglings per nest box per year) than nest site or female identity. Habitat features were reliable cues of nest site quality. Nest sites with less vegetative cover produced greater numbers of fledglings than sites with more cover. However, there was also a competitive cost to nesting in high-quality, low-vegetative cover nest boxes, as these sites experienced the most infanticide events. In the lowland local population, water depth and cover surrounding nest sites were related with F. passerinus productivity. Low vegetative cover and deeper water were associated with lower predation rates, suggesting that predation could be a primary factor driving habitat selection patterns. Parrotlets also demonstrated directional dispersal. Pairs that changed nest sites were more likely to disperse from poor-quality nest sites to high-quality nest sites rather than vice versa, and juveniles were more likely to disperse to, or remain in, the more productive of the two local populations. Parrotlets exhibited three characteristics fundamental to the IFD: habitat heterogeneity within and between local populations, reliable habitat cues to productivity, and active dispersal to sites of higher fitness.

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