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Cornell, K. L, and T. M. Donovan. 2010. Scale-dependent mechanisms of habitat selection for a migratory passerine: An experimental approach. Auk 127:899-908.

Male black-throated blue warbler with color-bands, which allow researchers to track individual birds nesting sucess throughout the summer.


Habitat selection theory predicts that individuals choose breeding habitats that maximize fitness returns on the
basis of indirect environmental cues at multiple spatial scales. We performed a 3-year field experiment to evaluate five alternative
hypotheses regarding whether individuals choose breeding territories in heterogeneous landscapes on the basis of (1) shrub cover
within a site, (2) forest land-cover pattern surrounding a site, (3) conspecific song cues during prebreeding settlement periods, (4) a
combination of these factors, and (5) interactions among these factors. We tested hypotheses with playbacks of conspecific song across
a gradient of landscape pattern and shrub density and evaluated changes in territory occupancy patterns in a forest-nesting passerine,
the Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens). Our results support the hypothesis that vegetation structure plays a primary
role during presettlement periods in determining occupancy patterns in this species. Further, both occupancy rates and territory
turnover were affected by an interaction between local shrub density and amount of forest in the surrounding landscape, but not by
interactions between habitat cues and social cues. Although previous studies of this species in unfragmented landscapes found that
social postbreeding song cues played a key role in determining territory settlement, our prebreeding playbacks were not associated with
territory occupancy or turnover. Our results suggest that in heterogeneous landscapes during spring settlement, vegetation structure
may be a more reliable signal of reproductive performance than the physical location of other individuals.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 238

Phd Students: 144

Post Docs: 54

University Staff: 239

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 673

Scientific Publications: 1905

Presentations: 4236



November 2010


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Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey