© Marcel Burkhardt
Souchay, R., R. E. van Wijk, M. Schaub & S. Bauer (2018)
Identifying drivers of breeding success in a long-distance migrant using structural equation modelling.
Oikos 127: 125–133
In migrant animals, conditions encountered at various times and places throughout their annual cycle may affect breeding success. Yet, most studies so far have only investigated the effect of specific parts of the annual cycle, despite the importance to understand how different stages can interact and how these stages compare to intrinsic quality to properly modulate breeding success. Using a structural equation modelling approach, we investigated drivers of breeding success (migration cycle, individual quality, breeding conditions) in hoopoes Upupa epops, a long-distant migrant. Our causal framework explained 75% of the variation in breeding success. The effect of the migration schedule was negligible, whereas the previous breeding attempt strongly influenced current breeding success. We suggest that the interplay of individual quality and environmental conditions during both previous and current breeding season may be more important drivers of breeding success than migration schedules, even in a long-distance migrant. We conclude that structural equation modeling is a promising tool to investigate causal relationships. Applied to hoopoes, we demonstrated that current breeding success is strongly linked to previous breeding success. Complementary analysis integrating weather and climate conditions during migration and the breeding season may provide a deeper and wider overview of the annual cycle of hoopoes and additional insights into the existence of carry-over effects in breeding success.