Publication details.


Author(s):Á. Luna, N. Lois, S. Rodríguez-Martinez, A. Palma, A. Sanz-Aguilar, J. Tella, M. Carrete
Title:Urban life promotes delayed dispersal and family living in a non-social bird species
Journal:Scientific Reports
Issue No.:1
Abstract:© 2021, The Author(s).In some vertebrate species, family units are typically formed when sexually mature individuals delay dispersal and independent breeding to remain as subordinates in a breeding group. This behaviour has been intensively studied in gregarious species but has also been described in non-social species where ecological and evolutionary drivers are less known. Here, we explore factors that favour delayed dispersal and family living and potential benefits associated with this strategy in a non-social, monogamous species (the burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia) occupying urban and rural habitats. Our results show that family units arise when first-year individuals, mainly males, delay their dispersal to stay in their natal nests with their parents. This delayed dispersal, while still uncommon, was more prevalent in urban (7%) than in rural (3%) habitats, and in areas with high conspecific density and productivity. Birds delaying dispersal contributed to the genetic pool of the offspring in 25% of the families analysed, but did not increase the productivity of the nests where they remained. However, their presence was related to an improvement in the body condition of chicks, which was ultimately linked to a slightly positive effect in offspring future survival probabilities. Finally, delayed dispersers were recruited as breeders in high-quality urban territories and closer to their natal nests than individuals dispersing during their first year of life. Thus, our results suggest that delaying dispersal may be mainly related to opportunities to inheriting a good quality territory, especially for males. Our study contributes to understanding the role played by habitat quality in promoting delayed dispersal and family living, not only in social but also non-social species, highlighting its impact in the ecology and evolution of animal populations.

Related staff

  • Ana Sanz Aguilar
  • Related departments

  • Animal and Microbial Biodiversity
  • Related research groups

  • Ecology and Evolution