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Do American Dippers Obtain a Survival Benefit from Altitudinal Migration?

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Studies of partial migrants provide an opportunity to assess the cost and benefits of migration. Previous work has demonstrated that sedentary American dippers (residents) have higher annual productivity than altitudinal migrants that move to higher elevations to breed. Here we use a ten-year (30 period) mark-recapture dataset to evaluate whether migrants offset their lower productivity with higher survival during the migration-breeding period when they occupy different habitat, or early and late-winter periods when they coexist with residents. Mark-recapture models provide no evidence that apparent monthly survival of migrants is higher than that of residents at any time of the year. The best-supported model suggests that monthly survival is higher in the migration-breeding period than winter periods. Another well-supported model suggested that residency conferred a survival benefit, and annual apparent survival (calculated from model weighted monthly apparent survival estimates using the Delta method) of residents (0.511 ± 0.038SE) was slightly higher than that of migrants (0.487 ± 0.032). Winter survival of American dippers was influenced by environmental conditions; monthly apparent survival increased as maximum daily flow rates increased and declined as winter temperatures became colder. However, we found no evidence that environmental conditions altered differences in winter survival of residents and migrants. Since migratory American dippers have lower productivity and slightly lower survival than residents our data suggests that partial migration is likely an outcome of competition for limited nest sites at low elevations, with less competitive individuals being forced to migrate to higher elevations in order to breed.
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Green DJ, Whitehorne IBJ, Middleton HA, Morrissey CA (2015) Do American Dippers Obtain a Survival Benefit from Altitudinal Migration? PLoS ONE 10(4): e0125734. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125734
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Do American Dippers Obtain a Survival Benefit from Altitudinal Migration?
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