Nest-Site Selection by Female Black-Capped Chickadees: Settlement Based on Conspecific Attraction?

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Ramsay, Scott M.; Otter, Ken A.; Ratcliffe, Laurene M.
article description
Female Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) solicit extrapair copulations (EPCs) from neighboring high-ranking males, and these EPCs result in extrapair young. Females might choose to locate their nests near the territory boundaries of attractive males to facilitate access to EPCs. Other hypotheses might also explain choice of nest site, namely (1) habitat characteristics, (2) prey abundance, and (3) previous experience. We tested these four hypotheses in 1996 and 1997. Out of 27 habitat characteristics measured, we found only one that was significantly different between nests and control sites in both years. The abundance of large trees was lower at nest sites than at control sites in each year and when years were pooled. Relative prey abundance did not differ between nests and control sites for either year of the study. We found no different in interyear nest placement based on female experience; experienced females nester farther than 60 m from their previous nest sites in both years of the study. In 1996, females whose neighboring males were higher ranked than their social partner located their nests significantly closer to territory boundaries than did females whose nearest neighbors were lower ranked than their social partner. In 1997, all pairs nested near territory boundaries. We conclude that choice of nest location in Black-capped Chickadees is influenced by conspecific attraction based on mating tactics.