Food supplementation mitigates dispersal-dependent differences in nest defence in a passerine bird

Charlotte Récapet, Gregory Daniel, Joelle Taroni, Pierre Bize, Blandine Doligez

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Dispersing and non-dispersing individuals often differ in phenotypic traits (e.g. physiology, behaviour), but to what extent these differences are fixed or driven by external conditions remains elusive. We experimentally tested whether differences in nest-defence behaviour between dispersing and non-dispersing individuals changed with local habitat quality in collared flycatchers, by providing additional food during the nestling rearing period. In control (non-food-supplemented) nests, dispersers were less prone to defend their brood compared with non-dispersers, whereas in food-supplemented nests, dispersing and non-dispersing individuals showed equally strong nest
defence. We discuss the importance of dispersal costs versus adaptive flexibility in reproductive investment in shaping these differences in nest-defence behaviour between dispersing and non-dispersing individuals. Irrespective of the underlying mechanisms, our study emphasizes the importance of
accounting for environmental effects when comparing traits between dispersing and non-dispersing individuals, and in turn assessing the costs and benefits of dispersal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160097
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2016

Bibliographical note


This work was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (PICS France-Switzerland to B.D.), the Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche (PhD fellowship to C.R.), the University of Aberdeen (stipend to C.R.), the Uppsala Universitet (stipend to G.D.), the Université de Lausanne (grant to J.T.), the Région Rhône-Alpes (Programme Cible PhD fellowship to G.D. and Explora'doc mobility grants to C.R. and G.D.), the L'Oréal Foundation-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ programme (fellowship to C.R.), the Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities and the Fondation pour l'Université de Lausanne (grants to C.R.).


Many thanks to Jukka Forsman and the landowners of Gotland for access to the study sites; Lars Gustafsson for field logistics; Myriane Chalopin, Arthur Colliot, Justine Le Vaillant, Pierre-Lou Marion and Murielle Vergniol for their help on the field; and Nicolas Morellet and an anonymous referee for constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


  • dispersal
  • anti-predator behaviour
  • parental care
  • personality
  • habitat quality
  • Ficedula albicollis


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