Describing Willow Flycatcher habitats: scale perspectives and gender differences

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

1992

Author(s): 

Sedgwick, J.A. and F.L. Knopf

Suggested Citation: 

Sedgwick, J.A. and F.L. Knopf. 1992. Describing Willow Flycatcher habitats: scale perspectives and gender differences. The Condor. 94(3): 720-733.

We compared habitat characteristics of nest sites (female-selected sites) and song perch sites (male-selected sites) with those of sites unused by Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax trailii) at three different scales of vegetation measurement: (1) microplot (central willow [Salix spp.] bush and four adjacent bushes); (2) mesoplot (0.07 ha); and, (3) macroplot (flycatcher territory size). Willow Flycatchers exhibited vegetation preferences at all three scales. Nest sites were distinguished by high willow density and low variability in willow patch size and bush height. Song perch sites were characterized by large central shrubs, low central shrub vigor, and high variability in shrub size. Unused sites were characterized by greater distances between willows and willow patches, less willow coverage, and a smaller riparian zone width than either nest or song perch sites. At all scales, nest sites were situated farther from unused sites in multivariate habitat space than were song perch sites, suggesting (1) a correspondence among scales in their ability to describe Willow Flycatcher habitat, and (2) females are more discriminating in habitat selection than males. Microhabitat differences between male-selected (song perch) and female-selected (nest) sites were evident at the two smaller scales; at the finest scale, the segregation in habitat space between male-selected and female-selected sites was greater than that between male-selected and unused sites. Differences between song perch and nest sites were not apparent at the scale of flycatcher territory size, possibly due to inclusion of (1) both nest and song perch sites, (2) defended, but unused habitat and/or (3) habitat outside of the territory, in larger scale analyses. The differences between nest and song perch sites at the finer scales reflect their different functions (e.g., nest concealment and microclimatic requirements vs. advertising and territorial defense, respectively), and suggest that the exclusive use of either nest or song perch sites in vegetation analyses can result in misleading, or at least incomplete, descriptions of a species' habitat. Habitat interpretations for Willow Flycatchers (and perhaps for many passerines) are a function of the gender-specific behavior of the birds observed and the scale of vegetation measurement.