© Marcel Burkhardt
Fattebert, J., M. Perric, B. Naef-Daenzer & M. Grüebler (2019)
Experimentally disentangling intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of natal dispersal in a nocturnal raptor
Proc. R. Sac.B 286: 20191537
Athene noctua, cross-fostering, food supplementation, little owl, natal dispersal, radio-tracking
Equivocal knowledge of the phase-specific drivers of natal dispersal remains a major deficit in understanding causes and consequences of dispersal and thus, spatial dynamics within and between populations. We performed a field experiment combining partial cross-fostering of nestlings and nestling food supplementation in little owls (Athene noctua). This approach disentangled the effect of nestling origin from the effect of the rearing environment on dispersal behaviour, while simultaneously investigating the effect of food availability in the rearing environment. We radio-tracked fledglings to quantify the timing of pre-emigration forays and emigration, foray and transfer duration, and the dispersal distances. Dispersal characteristics of the pre-emigration phase were affected by the rearing environment rather than by the origin of nestlings. In food-poor habitats, supplemented individuals emigrated later than unsupplemented individuals. By contrast, transfer duration and distance were influenced by the birds' origin rather than by their rearing environment. We found no correlation between timing of emigration and transfer duration or distance. We conclude that food supply to the nestlings and other characteristics of the rearing environment modulate the timing of emigration, while innate traits associated with the nestling origin affect the transfer phases after emigration. The dispersal behaviours of juveniles prior and after emigration, therefore, were related to different determinants, and are suggested to form different life-history traits.