An examination of the influence of social information on territory selection by a partially migratory population of song sparrows (Melospiza melodia)

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jackson Wesley Evans (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Jeremy Hyman

Abstract: Territory selection can greatly affect a species’ ecology, from density to interactions among individuals. Previously, habitat quality was found to be one of the driving forces in territory selection. However, the use of social information received from other individuals in a population has shown to also play a role in territory selection, especially when habitat is consistent. In a study of black-throated blue warblers, Betts et al. (2008) were able to influence territory selection by playing song in empty potential territories during the post-breeding season when juveniles and males were prospecting for territories. The following year, more males set up territories in the places where song had been played than in places where it had not. I looked to see if a similar effect could be observed in a partially migratory population of song sparrows. Song sparrows have a much longer breeding season than black-throated blue warblers, remaining territorial from early in the spring into the autumn, and many male song sparrows remain yearround residents. Empty territories in suitable habitat were found across the campus of Western Carolina University and song was played in half of them for ten hours a day for ten days during August of 2009. Point counts were done in every territory until April of 2010, and playbacks were done in every territory in May and June of 2010 to test for territoriality. While there was initially a strong presence of birds in the experimental territories compared to the control, ultimately there was no difference in occupancy between experimental and control territories. This could be partially due to densitydependent habitat selection since the population at the field site was very dense. Song sparrows also display a wide variety of territorial behavior, which could result in less emphasis on social information in territory selection when compared to black-throated blue warblers.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
song sparrow, territory selection
Song sparrow -- Territoriality
Song sparrow -- Behavior
Social behavior in animals

Email this document to