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Zoologie
2020

Within-season movements of Alpine songbird distributions are driven by fine-scale environmental characteristics

Francesco Ceresa, Mattia Brambilla, Juan S. Monrós, Franco Rizzolli & Petra Kranebitter
Abstract

Information about distribution and habitat use of organisms is crucial for conservation. Bird distribution within the breeding season has been usually considered static, but this assumption has been questioned. Within-season movements may allow birds to track changes in habitat quality or to adjust site choice between subsequent breeding attempts. Such movements are especially likely in temperate mountains, given the substantial environmental heterogeneity and changes occurring during bird breeding season. We investigated the within-season movements of breeding songbirds in the European Alps in spring-summer 2018, using repeated point counts and dynamic occupancy models. For all the four species for which we obtained sufficient data, changes in occupancy during the season strongly indicated the occurrence of within-season movements. Species occupancy changed during the season according to fine-scale vegetation/land-cover types, while microclimate (mean temperature) affected initial occupancy in two species. The overall occupancy rate increased throughout the season, suggesting the settlement of new individuals coming from outside the area. A static distribution cannot be assumed during the breeding season for songbirds breeding in temperate mountains. This needs to be considered when planning monitoring and conservation of Alpine birds, as within-season movements may affect the proportion of population/distribution interested by monitoring or conservation programs.

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