Breeding habitat selection is a critical component of the annual cycle because of its effect on fitness. Multiple theories of habitat selection can be differentiated by their responses to the quantity of habitat, conspecific density, and habitat quality. Here, we use network analysis to understand the characteristics of fine-scale breeding habitat selected by both immigrant and returning adult piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) to test five hypotheses of habitat selection. Between 2014 and 2019, we recorded 2034 uniquely marked adults breeding at 326 breeding locations with 1240 successive breeding events. Among adults, immigration events (i.e., individuals that moved to a new breeding location) were detected as often as fidelity to the same breeding location. We found support for the social attraction hypothesis for both immigrants and returners, indicating that adult plovers use social cues for settlement decisions. Adult plovers selected habitats with intermediate levels of conspecific density and high habitat quality, as assessed by con- and heterospecific nest survival, with no effect from the amount of available habitat. We also simulated the loss of breeding habitat and identified highly connected breeding locations, which occurred mostly on the riverine habitat type, which have important implications for habitat conservation for this listed species. Our results highlight the role of conspecifics at identifying high-quality breeding habitat regardless of whether individuals return to the same breeding site or immigrate to new areas.
|Title||Conspecific density and habitat quality affect breeding habitat selection: Support for the social attraction hypothesis|
|Authors||Rose J. Swift, Michael J. Anteau, Kristen S. Ellis, Megan Ring, Mark H. Sherfy, Dustin L. Toy|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center|