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Dispersal is a key process in the metapopulation dynamics and genetic structure of spatially segregated populations. However, our knowledge of avian dispersal, particularly in migratory passerines, remains limited. We studied dispersal of Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) and Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) to determine whether agricultural management practices affected dispersal patterns and habitat selection. From 2002 to 2006, we banded adults and nestlings on six focal hay fields and two pastures in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York and searched for banded birds within 1.5 km of Vermont field sites during two years. Natal dispersal distances were greater than breeding dispersal in both species, and breeding dispersal distances of Bobolinks were greater than those of Savannah Sparrows. Site fidelity was high in both species, with >80% of detected adults and ~30% of detected natal dispersers returning to the same field in subsequent years. During natal dispersal, movement was random with respect to habitat quality. Adult Bobolinks dispersed to fields with annual reproductive rates greater than or equal to those of their original field; by contrast, adult Savannah Sparrows were more likely to move to or remain in low-quality habitats. During breeding dispersal, strong site fidelity took precedence over the effect of the previous year’s nest success on the probability of dispersal, particularly for Savannah Sparrows. Site fidelity has implications for management of agricultural fields because consistency of cropping patterns and cutting dates are important for maintaining populations of these species.


This article was originally published in The Auk:

Fajardo, N., A.M. Strong, N.G. Perlut, and N. J. Buckley. 2009. Natal and breeding dispersal of Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows in an agricultural landscape. The Auk 126:310-318.



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