Why do Birds Migrate? The Role of Food, Habitat, Predation, and Competition
evolution of migration
AdvisorBronstein, Judith L.
Conway, Courtney J.
Committee ChairBronstein, Judith L.
Conway, Courtney J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe ultimate causes of bird migration are largely unknown despite more than a century of research. By studying partially migratory short-distance tropical migrants and by employing comparative methods, some difficulties in testing hypotheses for evolution of migration can be overcome. Using comparative methods I tested the evolutionary precursor hypothesis, a major hypothesis for why migration evolved in some lineages and not in others. The results of this study conflicted with many assumptions and predictions of the evolutionary precursor hypothesis. Most importantly, migratory behavior was not related to diet and habitat in simple ways. The interaction between diet and habitat, as well as consistent associations between flocking behavior and migration suggested that food variability is poorly captured by the surrogates embodied in the evolutionary precursor hypothesis. I then employed comparative methods to studying tropical altitudinal migration. Comparisons of diets and fruit preferences between species pairs showed that migrants are more frugivorous, eat a broader diversity of fruits, and have diets that more strongly resemble their preferences than do residents. Although providing evidence that food limitation plays a role in altitudinal migration, these results do not support the hypothesis that interspecific competition explains variation in migratory behavior. Next, I provided the first test of a predation-based hypothesis to explain altitudinal migration. Migrants breed at higher elevations than where they spend their non-breeding season. Thus, birds may migrate uphill to escape high nest predation risk at lower elevations. Results from this experimental study are largely consistent with this hypothesis, but anomalies between predicted and observed patterns suggest that either migration of lowland birds occurs in response to other factors, or that anthropogenic change has altered the tradeoffs involved in migratory decisions. Finally, I focus on a single migrant species and evaluate (a) two food-based hypotheses to explain the destination of migration movements, and (b) mechanisms underlying intra-specific differences in migratory strategy. Food can explain why Corapipo altera migrate uphill, but not why they migrate downhill. My data on sex bias and body condition leads to a new hypothesis explaining the complete annual cycle of this tropical migrant bird.
Degree ProgramEcology & Evolutionary Biology