• Demographic components of philopatry and nest-site fidelity of Pacific black brant

      Lindberg, Mark Steven; Sedinger, James S. (1996)
      I investigated demographic components of nest-site fidelity and philopatry of Pacific black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans). My analyses included data I collected during summer 1990-1993, and also incorporated data obtained between 1986-1989. My studies of nest-site fidelity were limited to the Tutakoke River colony, Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta, Alaska. Studies of philopatry and dispersal among colonies included observations at 7 breeding colonies of brant marked with tarsal tags (n = 20,147). I observed strong evidence that philopatry of brant was female biased. Probability of breeding philopatry, which was estimated with multi-state modeling techniques, was high (>0.9) and dispersal of adults among breeding colonies was rare. I developed an ad hoc estimator for natal philopatry that was unbiased by a confounding of homing, survival, and detection probabilities. Probability of natal philopatry for females was both age and density dependent. The density-dependent decline in natal philopatry may result from increased rate of permanent nonbreeding or increased probability of dispersal. Observed probability of natal philopatry for males was approximately equivalent to the relative size of their natal colony, suggesting that males pair at random with females from other colonies. Gene flow among populations of brant is largely male mediated, and I predict populations of brant will exhibit distinct mitochondrial DNAs if populations have been reproductively isolated for an adequate period of time. Probability of fidelity to previous nest sites for adults was high (>0.7). Probability of nest-site fidelity was affected by previous nesting success, age, and availability of nest sites. Phenology of nesting, nest-site selection, and clutch size of brant was affected by spring snowmelt. Dispersal of brant from traditional nest sites in years with late springs may represent a tradeoff between site fidelity and timing of nest initiation. Movement of young females from natal nest sites was a mechanism for colony expansion. I observed little evidence that site fidelity was advantageous, and concluded that quality of individual bird, environmental conditions, and demographic status may be more important determinants of breeding performance.