Earlier and more frequent occupation of breeding sites during the non-breeding season increases breeding success in a colonial seabird



Bennett, Sophie, Harris, Mike P, Wanless, Sarah, Green, Jonathan A ORCID: 0000-0001-8692-0163, Newell, Mark A, Searle, Kate R and Daunt, Francis
(2022) Earlier and more frequent occupation of breeding sites during the non-breeding season increases breeding success in a colonial seabird. ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 12 (9). e9213-.

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Abstract

Competition for high-quality breeding sites in colonial species is often intense, such that individuals may invest considerable time in site occupancy even outside the breeding season. The site defense hypothesis predicts that high-quality sites will be occupied earlier and more frequently, consequently those sites will benefit from earlier and more successful breeding. However, few studies relate non-breeding season occupancy to subsequent breeding performance limiting our understanding of the potential life-history benefits of this behavior. Here, we test how site occupancy in the non-breeding season related to site quality, breeding timing, and breeding success in a population of common guillemots <i>Uria aalge</i>, an abundant and well-studied colonially breeding seabird. Using time-lapse photography, we recorded occupancy at breeding sites from October to March over three consecutive non-breeding seasons. We then monitored the successive breeding timing (lay date) and breeding success at each site. On average, sites were first occupied on the 27th October ± 11.7 days (mean ± SD), subsequently occupied on 46 ± 18% of survey days and for 55 ± 15% of the time when at least one site was occupied. Higher-quality sites, sites with higher average historic breeding success, were occupied earlier, more frequently and for longer daily durations thereafter. Laying was earlier at sites that were occupied more frequently and sites occupied earlier were more successful, supporting the site defense hypothesis. A path analysis showed that the return date had a greater or equal effect on breeding success as lay date. Pair level occupancy had no effect on breeding timing or success. The clear effect of non-breeding occupancy of breeding sites on breeding timing and success highlights the benefits of this behavior on demography in this population and the importance of access to breeding sites outside the breeding season in systems where competition for high-quality sites is intense.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: breeding timing, common murre, non-breeding behavior, productivity, site defense hypothesis, site quality, time-lapse photography
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2022 16:23
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 19:43
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9213
Open Access URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9213
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URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3166139