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Measuring immigration and philopatry in seabirds; recruitment to Black-legged Kittiwake colonies
Coulson, J.C. & Coulson, B.A. (2008) Ibis 150:288299

The degree of philopatry in two new Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla colonies in northeast England was studied for 36 and 16 successive years, respectively. There was a tendency in both colonies for the number of recruits to the breeding group to increase with the age (and size) of the colony, but by an average of only one additional recruit each year. In the two new colonies, it was 7 and 9 years respectively before the first young birds bred in their natal colony. By that time, over 100 immigrants had recruited and bred in each colony. Thereafter, new philopatric birds were recorded annually. But these formed only an average of 23% of the recruits during 36 years (195590) at North Shields, and 4.2% over 16 years (19912006) at Coquet Island. In every year at both colonies the number of new immigrants exceeded the number of philopatric recruits. Males formed 82% of philopatric birds. The low degree of philopatry in the Kittiwake will result in appreciable gene flow between colonies and this is consistent with little geographic variation in the species. Each immigrant has to make a choice of which colony to enter, but the criteria for this selection are not understood. It is argued that many measures of philopatry in birds are biased towards high values because of the greater ease in identifying philopatric individuals. The generalization that there is a high degree of philopatry in colonial seabird species is not justified, as there is considerable variation between species, and possibly between colonies. More estimates based on unbiased data are needed.

Keywords: Black-legged Kittiwake, gene flow, philopatry, recruitment, Rissa tridactyla.


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