Site fidelity and lifetime territorial consistency of ovenbirds (Seiurus Aurocapilla) in a contiguous forest

Michael J. Bernard, Laurie J. Goodrich, Walter M. Tzilkowski, Margaret C. Brittingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We investigated territory-level habitat use patterns of 132 color-banded male Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) over a 12-year period at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in eastern Pennsylvania. Our primary goals were to test hypotheses concerning selection behavior as well as to describe territory fidelity of an area-sensitive Neotropical migrant by quantifying year-to-year movements of individuals over a period equivalent to several generations. Furthermore, we tested whether returns and territory shifts were associated with prior reproductive success and bird age. We measured occupancy as the number of birds that occupied 60-m grid cells that covered two 18-ha study sites over the 12-year period and similarly calculated rates of reproductive success within each grid cell. Rates of reproductive success were generally high (>60%) and were not correlated with occupancy rates. Return rates also were high, and birds rarely moved far from their first territory (mean = 68 m) during their lifetimes. There was no relationship between site fidelity and past reproductive success, but shift distances decreased with age. Our results differed from past studies that found a relationship between breeding dispersal and past reproductive success for species in a number of habitats. High territory fidelity regardless of past reproductive performance may represent a general case for songbirds breeding in homogeneous, high-quality habitats in which sources of failure are infrequent and unpredictable. In such cases, the potential benefit of moving may not outweigh the costs, and being able to obtain and maintain a territory may be of prime importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-642
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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