Winter territoriality and its implications for the breeding ecology of White-throated Dippers Cinclus cinclus

Crowther, William and Magoolagan, Lucy and Mawby, Peter J and Whitehead, Flora A and Wright, Philip M and Sharp, Stuart Peter (2018) Winter territoriality and its implications for the breeding ecology of White-throated Dippers Cinclus cinclus. Bird Study, 65 (4). pp. 471-477. ISSN 0006-3657

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Capsule: Pairs of White-throated Dippers Cinclus cinclus which defended winter territories bred earlier than non-territorial individuals, but there was no difference in reproductive success. Aims: The effect of winter territoriality on breeding ecology has rarely been studied in resident birds. We carried out a preliminary investigation of whether winter territorial behaviour and territory size affect the timing of reproduction, breeding territory size and reproductive success in a riverine bird, the White-throated Dipper. Methods: We monitored an individually marked population of White-throated Dippers in the UK. Wintering individuals were classified as either territorial or ‘floaters’ according to their patterns of occurrence and behaviour, and their nesting attempts were closely monitored in the subsequent months. Winter and breeding territory sizes were measured by gently ‘pushing’ birds along the river and recording the point at which they turned back. Results: All birds defending winter territories did so in pairs, but some individuals changed partners before breeding. Territorial pairs that were together throughout the study laid eggs significantly earlier than pairs containing floaters and those comprising territorial birds that changed partners. However, there were no significant differences in clutch size, nestling mass or the number of chicks fledged. There was no relationship between winter territory length and lay date or any measure of reproductive success, although sample sizes were small. Winter territories were found to be significantly shorter than breeding territories. Conclusion: Winter territoriality may be advantageous because breeding earlier increases the likelihood that pairs will raise a second brood, but further study is needed. Territories are shorter in winter as altitudinal migrants from upland streams increase population density on rivers, but this may also reflect seasonal changes in nutritional and energetic demands.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Bird Study
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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Bird Study on 15/11/2018, available online:
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11 Dec 2018 13:22
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 02:30