The importance of social information in breeding site selection increases with population size in the Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus

Authors

  • PATRICIA MATEO-TOMÁS,

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      Corresponding author.
      Email: rktespejos@gmail.com
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    • Present address: Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC), CSIC-UCLM-JCCM, Ronda de Toledo s/n, Ciudad Real 13071, Spain.

  • PEDRO P. OLEA

    1. School of Biology, IE University, Campus Santa Cruz la Real, 40003 Segovia, Spain
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 154, Issue 1, 234, Article first published online: 27 September 2011

Corresponding author.
Email: rktespejos@gmail.com

Abstract

Animals can select breeding sites using non-social information (habitat characteristics) and social information (conspecific presence or abundance). The availability of both types of information is expected to vary over time during the colonization of a new area, conditioning their use by colonizers. However, if and how both types of information are exploited during the colonization process remains unclear. We hypothesized that non-social information should be predominant at the beginning of a colonization episode (when conspecific presence is low) and that social information should gain in importance as the colonization progresses. We tested this hypothesis by studying habitat selection by the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus, a long-lived colonial raptor, during a natural colonization process spanning 40 years. In NW Spain, the population showed a sharp increase from 15 breeding pairs in three colonies in the 1970s to 586 breeding pairs in 120 colonies in 2008, expanding its range from 90 km2 in the 1970s to 6403 km2 in 2008, with directions of expansion following areas rich in nesting cliffs. The main determinants of habitat selection varied over time. Livestock density and the characteristics of nesting cliffs were the main predictors of settlement at the onset of colonization. Breeding density of conspecifics increased its importance over time, having the greatest relative weight in habitat selection later in the colonization process. Our results indicated a prevalent use of non-social information during the early stages of the colonization and an increasing role of social information as the expansion progressed.

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