Resource defense and monopolization in a marked population of ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)

Authors

  • François Rousseu,

    1. Département de biologie, Centre d'étude de la forêt and Chaire de recherche du Canada en écologie spatiale et en écologie du paysage, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada
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  • Yanick Charette,

    1. Département de biologie, Centre d'étude de la forêt and Chaire de recherche du Canada en écologie spatiale et en écologie du paysage, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada
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  • Marc Bélisle

    Corresponding author
    1. Département de biologie, Centre d'étude de la forêt and Chaire de recherche du Canada en écologie spatiale et en écologie du paysage, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada
    • Correspondence

      Marc Bélisle, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Qc, J1K 2R1 Canada. Tel: 1-819-821-8000 ex(61313);

      Fax: 1-819-821-8049; E-mail: marc.m.belisle@usherbrooke.ca

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Abstract

Resource defense behavior is often explained by the spatial and temporal distribution of resources. However, factors such as competition, habitat complexity, and individual space use may also affect the capacity of individuals to defend and monopolize resources. Yet, studies frequently focus on one or two factors, overlooking the complexity found in natural settings. Here, we addressed defense and monopolization of nectar feeders in a population of free-ranging ruby-throated hummingbirds marked with passive integrated transponder (PIT tags). Our study system consisted of a 44 ha systematic grid of 45 feeders equipped with PIT tag detectors recording every visit made at feeders. We modeled the number of visits by competitors (NVC) at feeders in response to space use by a focal individual potentially defending a feeder, number of competitors, nectar sucrose concentration, and habitat visibility. Individuals who were more concentrated at certain feeders on a given day and who were more stable in their use of the grid throughout the season gained higher exclusivity in the use of those feeders on that day, especially for males competing against males. The level of spatial concentration at feeders and its negative effect on NVC was, however, highly variable among individuals, suggesting a continuum in resource defense strategies. Although the apparent capacity to defend feeders was not affected by competition or nectar sucrose concentration, the level of monopolization decreased with increasing number of competitors and higher nectar quality. Defense was enhanced by visibility near feeders, but only in forested habitats. The reverse effect of visibility in open habitats was more difficult to interpret as it was probably confounded by perch availability, from which a bird can defend its feeder. Our study is among the first to quantify the joint use of food resource by overlapping individuals unconstrained in their use of space. Our results show the importance of accounting for variation in space use among individuals as it translated into varying levels of defense and monopolization of feeders regardless of food resource distribution.

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