Many animals make behavioural changes to cope with winter conditions, being gregariousness a common strategy. Several factors have been invoked to explain why gregariousness may evolve during winter, with individuals coming together and separating as they trade off the different costs and benefits of living in groups. These trade-offs may, however, change over space and time as a response to varying environmental conditions. Despite its importance, little is known about the factors triggering gregarious behaviour during winter and its change in response to variation in weather conditions is poorly documented. Here, we aimed at quantifying large-scale patterns in wintering associations over 23 years of the white-winged snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis nivalis. We found that individuals gather in larger groups at sites with harsh wintering conditions. Individuals at colder sites reunite later and separate earlier in the season than at warmer sites. However, the magnitude and phenology of wintering associations are ruled by changes in weather conditions. When the temperature increased or the levels of precipitation decreased, group size substantially decreased, and individuals stayed united in groups for a shorter time. These results shed light on factors driving gregariousness and points to shifting winter climate as an important factor influencing this behaviour.

Spatio-temporal variation in the wintering associations of an alpine bird

Scridel D.;
2021-01-01

Abstract

Many animals make behavioural changes to cope with winter conditions, being gregariousness a common strategy. Several factors have been invoked to explain why gregariousness may evolve during winter, with individuals coming together and separating as they trade off the different costs and benefits of living in groups. These trade-offs may, however, change over space and time as a response to varying environmental conditions. Despite its importance, little is known about the factors triggering gregarious behaviour during winter and its change in response to variation in weather conditions is poorly documented. Here, we aimed at quantifying large-scale patterns in wintering associations over 23 years of the white-winged snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis nivalis. We found that individuals gather in larger groups at sites with harsh wintering conditions. Individuals at colder sites reunite later and separate earlier in the season than at warmer sites. However, the magnitude and phenology of wintering associations are ruled by changes in weather conditions. When the temperature increased or the levels of precipitation decreased, group size substantially decreased, and individuals stayed united in groups for a shorter time. These results shed light on factors driving gregariousness and points to shifting winter climate as an important factor influencing this behaviour.
2021
Pubblicato
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/suppl/10.1098/rspb.2021.0690
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3065038
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