Habitat effects on resource tracking ability: do wintering Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla track fruit availability?
Forskningsoutput: Tidskriftsbidrag › Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
If resource availability shapes population distribution, changes in resource abundance should cause parallel changes in population numbers. However, tracking ability may be disrupted by different environmental and behavioural factors that act at different spatial and temporal scales. Here we analyse the ability of wintering Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla populations to track spatio-temporal variation in fruit availability in southern Spain in two habitats (forests and shrublands) with different population structure. Former studies had shown that forests are equally used by both adult migrant and local Blackcaps, whereas shrublands are nearly monopolized by juvenile migrants. These differences might affect resource tracking: it should be disrupted in forests, as local birds remain over winter in their breeding territories, but not in shrublands where similarly competitive juvenile migrants can freely track the spatial distribution of fruits. We analysed the fruit-tracking ability of Blackcap populations among sites and years in both habitat types using a habitat-matching model, which predicts spatio-temporal changes in population abundance proportional to changes in resource availability. We counted Blackcaps and fruiting shrubs (dominated by Lentiscs Pistacia lentiscus and Wild Olives Olea europaea sylvestris) during four winters in forest and shrubland patches. The abundance of fruits was always higher in shrublands than in forests. In shrublands, Blackcaps seemed to move freely across fruit-rich habitat patches, tracking changes in fruiting-shrub abundance among sites and years. However, such tracking was not observed in forests. This supports the view that fruit-tracking ability may be constrained by local factors, such as the social structure of populations occurring in different habitat types, which introduces spatio-temporal variation in the way fruit availability shapes the abundance distribution of these birds in their Mediterranean wintering grounds.