Cuff E, Thornton A, Boogert N (2022). Prospecting Behaviour in Wild Jackdaws.
Abstract: Prospecting Behaviour in Wild Jackdaws
Habitat suitability must be carefully considered when an animal is trying to locate a potential breeding site. Acquiring information on the quality of potential nest sites helps an individual to reduce their environmental uncertainty and to better respond to the fluctuating environmental changes. Decisions on where and when to breed are critical determinants of an animals’ reproductive success and can directly affect individuals’ fitness. It is therefore expected that animals will invest considerable time and energy into collecting information. Prospecting behaviour, whereby an animal gathers information about possible future breeding sites, helps individuals to reduce environmental certainty and make better and more informed decisions on where to breed. When assessing prospecting behaviour, it is important to consider the societal structures which may affect the propensity of prospecting to occur. Some individuals, such as those with greater dominance, commonly have higher reproductive success as their fitness affords them greater access to, or monopolization of, essential resources such as breeding sites. Yet, prospecting has received limited attention, despite its important role in breeding success. To understand this more, this study assesses wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula), who prospect breeding sites prior to breeding and who live in a hierarchical society. Investigation of how individuals and pair-bonded pairs gather information throughout the breeding season revealed that prospecting frequency did not significantly change throughout the breeding season. Prospecting did not occur more often at nest boxes with higher breeding success, nor do successfully breeding prospectors gather more information after their chicks have fledged. Pair-bonded individuals were not more likely to prospect with their partner. Yet, when they prospected together, the trips were longer. Dominance, however, had no effect on who prospected and for how long. Yet, a non-significant trend suggests that females prospect for longer than males. How information is gathered from prospecting trips, whether alone or with a breeding partner, and its role in individual decision-making processes may influence breeding habitat selection and is likely to affect dispersal and population dynamics of not just an individual but the species.