• bias;
  • capture-recapture;
  • Hirundo rustica;
  • spatial scale;
  • true survival


  • 1
    Theoretical models predict a negative effect of current reproduction on breeding dispersal, survival and future reproduction, and many studies confirm these predictions. Yet, results of most previous studies may be difficult to interpret because the fate of the affected individuals cannot always be observed. Detection is almost always imperfect and some individuals emigrate from the study area, resulting in biased estimates of both survival and dispersal.
  • 2
    Most studies bypass these problems with strong assumptions. We use a multistate capture–recapture model that does not require these assumptions. States are defined based on classes of reproductive success and on observed dispersal events within the study area. By accounting for imperfect detection within the study area, the model allows estimation of the effect of reproductive success on apparent survival, dispersal probabilities within the study area and the annual transition probabilities among classes of reproductive success. Based on an assumption about the estimate of real survival, the model allows the estimation of total dispersal that is not specific to a fixed study area.
  • 3
    We applied this model to capture–recapture data of 2262 adult barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) sampled from 1997–2004 in eight local populations in Switzerland.
  • 4
    We found that dispersal within the study area decreased with increasing reproductive success in both sexes, that reproductive success was not affected by preceding dispersal and that apparent survival of females but not of males increased with increasing reproductive success. Apparent survival of females with high reproductive success was identical to apparent survival of males suggesting that this estimate of apparent survival (0·48) was close to true survival. Total breeding dispersal was generally higher in females and it increased with decreasing reproductive success in both sexes. Current reproductive success depended on reproductive success in the preceding year suggesting that individual differences were of importance.
  • 5
    Our study highlights that reproductive success was an important factor affecting breeding dispersal and population turnover. While unsuccessful males mainly remained in the local populations, many unsuccessful females left them. Population turnover of adult swallows was mainly due to unsuccessful females.