4 years ago

Difference in arrival date at the breeding site between former pair members predicts divorce in blue tits

Divorce occurs when both members of a breeding pair survive to the following year but then pair with other individuals instead of reuniting. Divorce is common in birds, but its frequency can vary widely both between and within species, or even between populations across years. Several explanations for divorce have been described, both adaptive and nonadaptive. Many studies have compared the breeding success of faithful and divorced individuals, but fewer have considered the process of divorce, i.e. the events that lead up to divorce. In this study, we used data from eight breeding seasons to investigate divorce in a population of blue tits, Cyanistes caeruleus, in southern Germany. To compare our results to previous work, we first describe the frequency of divorce and compare the breeding success of divorced and faithful pairs. We then use data from an RFID transponder-based system, where all visits of individuals to any nestbox in the study site are automatically recorded throughout the year, to compare the behaviour of pairs in the interbreeding period. We found that the probability of divorce was not affected by breeding success in Year X. However, divorce was predicted by the difference in arrival time to the study site between the members of Year X pairs. Furthermore, during the interbreeding period, compared to their divorced counterparts, members of faithful pairs had more interactions with one another than with other individuals of the opposite sex. In Year X+1, faithful females started egg laying earlier, had somewhat larger clutches and produced slightly more fledglings, than females that had divorced. We propose that divorce in blue tits is a by-product of separation of the two pair members after the Year X breeding season, leading to asynchrony in the timing of settlement and pair formation in Year X+1.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0003347217302919

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