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Abstract

Residents and migrants use their environment very differently – the former remain in a given habitat throughout the year, whereas the latter are repeatedly confronted with unfamiliar environments. The difference in ecology may influence decision-making processes whether, when and to which extent to explore an unfamiliar environment. We have investigated spatial neophobia and spatial neophilia – two important novelty reactions that may underlie decision-making – in two closely related warbler species, the resident Sardinian warbler and the migratory garden warbler. Individuals of both species could access an unfamiliar room from a familiar cage. We assessed the conflict between the motivation to enter the novel room (spatial neophilia) and the motivation to avoid it (spatial neophobia) as the frequency and duration of perching on the dowel in the cage, which led to the unfamiliar room before entering it. Furthermore, we measured the latency to enter the novel room and compared the number of individuals of each species entering the room. The combination of the parameters measured allowed assessing the degree of both neophobia and neophilia. Finally, the time spent on each branch in the novel room was taken as a measure for spatial exploration. The migrants perched less often and spent less time on the dowel leading to the room, and entered the novel room quicker than the residents. Additionally, more migrants than residents entered the room. The migrants’ decision to enter the novel room can best be explained with a combination of low spatial neophobia coupled with high spatial neophilia, whereas the residents’ decision-making is best explained with high spatial neophobia coupled with high spatial neophilia. The differences in neophobia support the migrant-neophobia hypothesis. When in the room, the migrants spent less time on each branch than the residents, possibly indicating that the former collect less spatial information than the latter.