Balance between site fidelity and habitat preferences in colony site selection by herons and egrets

Carrasco, Luis; Toquenaga, Yukihiko; Mashiko, Miyuki. 2017 Balance between site fidelity and habitat preferences in colony site selection by herons and egrets. Journal of Avian Biology, 48 (7). 965-975.

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Habitat selection in avian species is a hierarchical process driven by different factors acting at multiple scales. Habitat preferences and site fidelity are two main factors affecting how colonial birds choose their breeding locations. Although these two factors affect how colonial species choose their habitats, previous studies have only focused on one factor at a time to explain the distribution of species at regional scales. Here we used 28 yr of colony location data of herons and egrets around Ibaraki prefecture in Japan in order to analyze the relative importance of habitat preferences and colony site fidelity for selecting breeding locations. We used Landsat satellite images together with a ground survey-based map to create land-use maps for past years and determine the habitats surrounding the herons and egrets colonies. Combining the estimated colony site fidelity with the habitat data, we used a random forest algorithm to create habitat selection models, which allowed us to analyze the changes in the importance of those factors over the years. We found high levels of colony site fidelity for each year of study, with its relative importance as a predictor for explaining colony distribution increasing drastically in the most recent five years. The increase in collective site fidelity could have been caused by recent changes in the population size of grey herons Ardea cinerea, a key species for colony establishment. We observed a balance between habitat preferences and colony site fidelity: habitat preferences were a more powerful predictor of colony distribution until 2008, when colony site fidelity levels were lower. Considering changes in the relative importance of these factors can lead to a better understanding of the habitat selection process and help to analyze bird species’ responses to environmental changes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 0908-8857
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 05 Apr 2017 09:32 +0 (UTC)

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