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Anim Behav. 2001 Jan;61(1):109-117.

Family-based winter territoriality in western bluebirds, Sialia mexicana: the structure and dynamics of winter groups.

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  • 1Hastings Natural History Reservation and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California at Berkeley

Abstract

Winter residency is characteristic of the majority of cooperatively breeding birds, but the composition and dynamics of winter groups have been examined in relatively few. In 1996-1998, we examined winter territoriality in the western bluebird, a year-round resident that shows a limited degree of helping behaviour in central coastal California, U.S.A. In spring, most western bluebirds breed as socially monogamous pairs, but a small proportion of pairs (3-16%) have additional breeding-age males helping at the nest, usually assisting parents or brothers. We found that year-round residents commonly wintered in family groups that defended territories similar to those used in spring. Winter groups had an even sex ratio and formed early in the autumn, when hatch-year birds dispersed. More females than males left their natal groups to be replaced by an influx of immigrant hatch-year birds. Winter groups typically consisted of breeders and one or two sons from the prior breeding season along with one or more immigrant females. A second period of dispersal occurred in spring when winter groups broke up and most birds other than the breeding pair left the winter territory. When they bred, yearling males and females often bred with unrelated individuals from their winter groups. Sons were more likely to remain on the study area as yearlings when they wintered with both parents than when they wintered with just one parent. We suggest that young males stay the winter due to benefits of remaining in family groups on mistletoe-based winter territories. Subsequent localized dispersal of sons then leads to opportunistic kin-based interactions later in life. Copyright 2001 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

PMID:
11170701
[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]
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