Ecomorphological predictors of natal dispersal distances in birds

Authors

  • Britta A. Dawideit,

    1. Institut für Zoologie, Abteilung V, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Becherweg 13, 55099 Mainz, Germany;
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  • Albert B. Phillimore,

    Corresponding author
    1. Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Population Biology, Silwood Park Campus, Imperial College London, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK; and
      *Correspondence author. E-mail: albert.phillimore@imperial.ac.uk
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  • Irina Laube,

    1. Institut für Zoologie, Abteilung V, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Becherweg 13, 55099 Mainz, Germany;
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  • Bernd Leisler,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Vogelwarte Radolfzell, Schloß Möggingen, Schloßallee 2, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany
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  • Katrin Böhning-Gaese

    1. Institut für Zoologie, Abteilung V, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Becherweg 13, 55099 Mainz, Germany;
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*Correspondence author. E-mail: albert.phillimore@imperial.ac.uk

Summary

  • 1Dispersal is one of the key ecological parameters but it is very difficult to quantify directly. As a consequence, empirical studies often ignore dispersal or use indirect measures.
  • 2Ringing data have previously been used to estimate the natal dispersal distances of 47 British passerine bird species. This provides an excellent opportunity to examine the potential of various indirect measures to predict natal dispersal distances in British birds.
  • 3We use a phylogenetic comparative framework and single- and multipredictor models including ecomorphological, behavioural or ecological traits to predict natal dispersal distance.
  • 4A multipredictor model that includes Kipp's distance (a measure of wing tip length), bill depth and tail graduation explains 45% of the interspecific variation in natal dispersal distance. These morphological characters all relate to aerodynamics with stronger flyers dispersing further.
  • 5However, an index of migration is a strong (but less informative) correlate of dispersal distance and Kipp's distance and bill depth are strong correlates of migration. Thus, we cannot disentangle whether these ecomorphological traits influence dispersal distance directly or whether the relationship between ecomorphology and dispersal is mediated through migratory behaviour.
  • 6Notwithstanding uncertainties regarding the causal links between dispersal distance and wing morphology, we suggest that two ecomorphological traits, Kipp's distance and bill depth, may provide a useful surrogate.

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