University of Oulu

Tolvanen, J., Seppänen, J., Mönkkönen, M., Thomson, R., Ylönen, H., Forsman, J. (2018) Interspecific information on predation risk affects nest site choice in a passerine bird. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 18, 181. doi:10.1186/s12862-018-1301-3

Interspecific information on predation risk affects nest site choice in a passerine bird

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Author: Tolvanen, Jere1; Seppänen, Janne-Tuomas2,3; Mönkkönen, Mikko4;
Organizations: 1Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu
2Nature and Game Management Trust, Degerby, Finland
3Open Science Centre, University of Jyvaskyla
4Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Jyvaskyla
5Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku
6Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town
7Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyvaskyla, Konnevesi Research Station
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-01-30


Background: Breeding site choice constitutes an important part of the species niche. Nest predation affects breeding site choice, and has been suggested to drive niche segregation and local coexistence of species. Interspecific social information use may, in turn, result in copying or rejection of heterospecific niche characteristics and thus affect realized niche overlap between species. We tested experimentally whether a migratory bird, the pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, collects information about nest predation risk from indirect cues of predators visiting nests of heterospecific birds. Furthermore, we investigated whether the migratory birds can associate such information with a specific nest site characteristic and generalize the information to their own nest site choice.

Results: Our results demonstrate that flycatchers can use the fate of heterospecific nesting attempts in their own nest site choice, but do so selectively. Young flycatcher females, when making the decision quickly, associated the fate of an artificial nest with nest-site characteristics and avoided the characteristic associated with higher nest predation risk.

Conclusions: Copying nest site choices of successful heterospecifics, and avoiding choices which led to failed attempts, may amplify or counter effects of nest predation on niche overlap, with important consequences for between-species niche divergence-convergence dynamics, species coexistence and predator-prey interactions.

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Series: BMC evolutionary biology
ISSN: 1471-2148
ISSN-E: 1471-2148
ISSN-L: 1471-2148
Volume: 18
Article number: 181
DOI: 10.1186/s12862-018-1301-3
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by Societas pro Fauna et Flora Fennica, Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse (grants to JT), Kone Foundation (JTF) and Academy of Finland (grants #122665, #125720 to JTF and #138049 to RLT).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 122665
Detailed Information: 122665 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
125720 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
138049 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Additional files:
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.