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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Nov 7;272(1578):2319-23.

Seasonal matching of habitat quality and fitness in a migratory bird.

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  • 1University of East Anglia, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Biological Sciences, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. t.gunnarsson@uea.ac.uk

Abstract

When species occupy habitats that vary in quality, choice of habitat can be critical in determining individual fitness. In most migratory species, juveniles migrate independently of their parents and must therefore choose both breeding and winter habitats. Using a unique dataset of marked black-tailed godwits (Limosa limosa islandica) tracked throughout their migratory range, combined with analyses of stable carbon isotope ratios, we show that those individuals that occupy higher quality breeding sites also use higher quality winter sites. This seasonal matching can severely inflate inequalities in individual fitness. This population has expanded over the last century into poorer quality breeding and winter habitats and, across the whole population; individual birds tend to occupy either novel or traditional sites in both seasons. Winter and breeding season habitat selection are thus strongly linked throughout this population; these links have profound implications for a wide range of population and evolutionary processes. As adult godwits are highly philopatric, the initial choice of winter habitat by juveniles will be critical in determining future survival, timing of migration and breeding success.

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