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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. The data generated during the current study are available in the Dryad repository: Breeding habitat choice and investment decisions are key contributors to fitness in animals. Density of individuals is a well-known cue of habitat quality used for future breeding decisions, but accuracy of density cues decreases as individuals disperse from breeding sites.
Used nests remain an available information source also after breeding season, but whether such information is used for breeding decisions is less well known.
We experimentally investigated whether migratory, cavity-nesting pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca prospect potential breeding sites after breeding season and use old nests as a cue for future breeding decisions. In late summerforest sites were ased to four treatments: 1 sites including nest boxes with old nests of heterospecifics tits2 sites including suitable but empty nest boxes, 3 sites with unsuitable nest boxes, or 4 sites without any nest boxes.
Flycatchers preferred sites where tits had been perceived to breed in the year, but only if great tits were also currently breeding in the site and had a relatively high breeding season final version eggs. Old flycatchers avoided sites ly treated with suitable but empty cavities, whereas young flycatchers preferred sites where tits had apparently bred in the year. Also egg mass, but not clutch size or clutch mass, was affected by the breeding season final version of past treatment information and current tit abundance.
The online version of this article Breeding habitat choice is an important decision for animals by defining available resources and risks for both breeding adults and their progeny. Animals may improve habitat choice and investment decisions by considering information on relative habitat quality by personally interacting with environment and using social information, based on both conspecific and heterospecific individuals Danchin et al. Especially in birds, social information use is widespread in breeding habitat choice Szymkowiak Both colonial and solitarily breeding birds use conspecific density and distribution Doligez et al.
Conspecifics are valuable information sources, but availability of within-season conspecific information may be limited, at least for the earliest settling part of a population. Individuals of other species often comprise the majority of individuals in the landscape, and thus, availability of information may be greatly increased if also heterospecifics are included as information sources. Earlier breeding heterospecifics also may reveal information that is not yet available from conspecifics e.
Accordingly, a variety of migratory birds use heterospecific information for habitat choice and investment decisions within a breeding season Forsman et al. Whether heterospecific cues are assessed during or after a breeding season to aid habitat choice in future breeding attempts is, however, less well known Parejo et al. Birds acquire social information through actively prospecting the behavior, nests, and fledglings of other individuals Reed et al.
Prospecting during breeding may, however, be constrained by activities necessary to take care of offspring Reed et al. In parallel, nestlings are incapable of prospecting other nests at least in solitarily breeding birds, e.
Therefore, the post-breeding social cues based on the density of adults and fledglings, or their proxies, such as fledgling call rates Nocera et al. Another potential social cue that may be used for assessing habitat quality, even after breeding birds and fledglings have left an area, is presence and contents of old nest structures. Nest-site choice in relation to old conspecific nests present in the beginning of breeding season has been studied before reviewed in Mazgajski However, the information value of old nests has rarely been distinguished from other hypotheses e.
Whether old nests of other species, observed during the post-breeding period, could be used as a valuable information source to select high-quality breeding sites in the next breeding season remains unknown. An ability to use old nests or nest contents, including those of other species, as social information about habitat quality would considerably increase available habitat quality information.
Besides these social cues, mere presence or abundance of available nest sites e.
Secondary cavity-nesting birds could also obtain information on the new cavities made by woodpeckers or other cavity excavators during the breeding season. We conducted a field experiment to test whether a migratory cavity-nesting passerine, the pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleucauses heterospecific social information, expressed by nest remains of the great tit Parus majoror information on the abundance of suitable nest sites empty cavitiesto adjust its breeding site choice and investment decisions during the next breeding season.
We isolated the availability of this information only to the post-breeding period from fledging of the young until autumn migration. Pied flycatcher is an ideal model for investigating these questions, because it readily breeding season final version social information in settlement and investment decisions e. Diverse use of various social information sources during breeding season short-term use may obscure long-term between-years effects of a specific cue. Therefore, we investigated the effects of the long-term experimental cues while controlling for short-term social information sources present during settlement, i.
If flycatchers collect information about the quality or abundance of potential future breeding sites during the post-breeding period, and if they are capable of cueing on mere nest cavity contents, we expect them to breeding season final version settle in sites where suitable nest sites were abundant. In addition, we expect that birds will especially prefer and show higher reproductive investment in sites where heterospecific tits were apparently breeding in the year. We conducted the experiment in — and replicated it in two study areas, ca. Pied flycatchers readily breed in nest boxes enabling efficient manipulation of nest-site availability and breeding monitoring.
Experimental de consisted of separate sites ca. Sites were located in pine-dominated forest patches with low availability of natural breeding cavities and did not ly contain nest boxes. Sites were at least a kilometer apart from each other. We set up the box sites in late June and created four treatments representing different breeding prospects and site quality information for the following breeding season :. Ten replicates of each treatment, i. We randomized each site to one of the four treatments, but so that each subsequent set of four sites included all treatments.
The great tit nests were from successful breeding attempts with recently fledged offspring and were collected from nest boxes in nearby study areas maximum 2 days before setting up the treatments. Tit nests are clearly distinguishable from flycatcher nests, because tits use different nest material moss and hair than flycatchers dry hay, grass, and bark. Nest boxes remained in the sites until flycatcher migration, but were removed after that.
In both study areas, flycatcher nestlings fledge during the last few weeks of June, the latest ones in early July. The habitat quality information simulated by the treatments was, therefore, available for flycatchers only during the post-breeding season. Boxes within a site were set up in the same locations as in the year.
Breeding season final version examined whether flycatchers visited the experimental boxes during the post-breeding period in by using video cameras mounted inside the boxes. Video data consisted of daylight hours recorded between 3rd and 30th of July in 15 nest boxes across the treatments in the Oulu study area. Four different flycatcher individuals, three males identification based on forehead patch size and shape and one female, were observed. Total recording time included only 1. Therefore, we monitored only a fraction of potential prospectors.
We could not capture and mark the flycatchers prospecting the experimental nest boxes. Therefore, we did not know which flycatchers settling into the experimental sites in the next spring had seen the experimental sites in Most likely some of the settling birds were naive to the information simulated in the sites in the year and made their habitat choice randomly in respect of the treatments. This makes our experiment conservative for testing the effects of past information on current breeding site choice.
Statistically ificant would thus suggest a strong effect of the simulated past information on flycatcher breeding site choice. We controlled for current social information sources abundance and reproductive investment of conspecifics and heterospecific tits available during the response year In May, before setting up the boxes, playback point counts were conducted in the middle of each site to quantify the overall abundance of tits. The playback lasted for 5 min and consisted of great tit singing and warning sounds.
Counts were done between and in fair weather. Unavoidably, some of the nest boxes in the response year became occupied by great tits 43 nest boxes; Online Resource 1. To ensure that four boxes were available for flycatchers in each site, a new box was put up nearby for each box occupied by tits. Flycatcher settlement and breeding were monitored by visiting the boxes and recording the flycatcher nest stage every 2 days until the first egg was laid.
To avoid secondary flycatcher females from settling into the sites a female mated to an already paired maleall empty boxes were removed from a site once the first egg was laid in any of the flycatcher nests in that site. Thus, all pairs that settled, meaning pairs that started building their nest before the first female started egg laying in the site, were allowed to breed.
Removal of nest boxes also was site-specific and egg laying in one site did not affect the availability of nest boxes in other sites. At least one nest box in each treatment was available for settlement in both study areas until the end of the experiment.
We restricted the study to primary females, because secondary females receive little assistance from the male, which may affect their breeding decisions and success Lundberg and Alatalo Seven clutches were not weighed due to logistical constraints. Final clutch size was recorded at the same time.
Once nestlings were at least 5 days old, most adult males of were captured, aged, and measured. Brood size was recorded at the time of male catching, and fledgling was calculated by subtracting from the brood size the of dead chicks observed in the box after the breeding season.
In addition, we followed the settlement and breeding of great tits in the nest boxes in each site to record their abundance, laying date of the first egg, and final clutch size. Response variables to measure flycatcher settlement decisions included nest box occupancy and laying date of the first egg hereafter laying date. A nest box was defined as occupied when nest material was observed inside the box. In case the nest was already half-built when it was observed for the first time, the box was defined as having been occupied on the day.
Only nests that proceeded to egg laying were considered. The use of social information may vary between old and young individuals and between females and males e.Breeding season final version
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