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Movement and territoriality of wintering hermit thrushes in southeastern louisiana

Brown, David R., Stouffer, Philip C., Strong, Cheryl M.
The Wilson bulletin 2000 v.112 no.3 pp. 347-353
Turdidae, agonistic behavior, birds, breeding, hardwood forests, philopatry, plantations, radio telemetry, social behavior, social structure, territoriality, winter, wintering grounds, Louisiana
We describe the spatial organization and social behavior of Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) wintering in pine plantations and an adjacent hardwood forest in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana over three winters. We used point counts (n == 403) to collect data on agonistic behaviors and relative abundance within the study area. We used mist-netting to study site fidelity on four 9-ha plots within and among years. We used radio-telemetry to measure Hermit Thrushes' movements and territoriality (n == 50). We found that Hermit Thrushes saturated suitable patches within the study area. Most Hermit Thrushes actively defended small [[mean == 0.55 ±± 0.03 (SE) ha]], minimally overlapping (15.90 ±± 3.63%%) territories throughout the winter. Hermit Thrushes established and maintained territories using the same agonistic behaviors described for breeding birds. A few non-territorial birds (14%%) moved among occupied territories, but most were faithful to a larger neighborhood, apparently awaiting a territory vacancy. Territorial behavior and frequency of non-territorial birds did not differ among age and sex classes, suggesting the absence of a sex- or age-based dominance hierarchy. The behavior of Hermit Thrushes conformed to the emerging view that competition for spatially mediated resources on the wintering grounds, such as food or cover, contribute to limiting populations of many species of migrant passerines.