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Habitat selection in a reintroduced population: social effects differ between natal and post-release dispersal


Published in: Animal Conservation


Date published: February 2016


Authors: Kate M. Richardson1,2 and John G. Ewen2


  1. Wildlife Ecology Group, Te Kura Mātauranga o ngā Taonga ā Papatuanuku, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  2. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK



Understanding the factors driving dispersal behaviour and habitat selection in reintroduced populations can be critical to reintroduction success. Social factors in particular can influence habitat selection, for example through conspecific attraction, and this can have both positive and negative effects on reintroduction success, particularly where multiple releases occur. In addition, little is known about how habitat selection differs between natal and post-release dispersal within species. Often it is assumed that information from a species’ natal dispersal preferences and patterns can act as a guide for predicting post-release dispersal behaviour, but no studies to date have examined this. We examine the factors influencing habitat selection during both natal and post-release dispersal in a reintroduced hihi (stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta) population using species distribution models. We demonstrate a strong social effect in habitat selection of natal dispersers bred at the release area (largely the offspring of founders), yet find no social effect in habitat selection of juveniles translocated 2 years after the first releases occurred. In addition, we establish that environmental variables are important in habitat selection in both groups. We suggest (1) that consideration of social effects and conspecific attraction should play a role in planning reintroduction release strategies, especially if reinforcement releases are considered necessary, and (2) that it may not always be appropriate to assume post-release dispersal in reintroduced populations will be driven by the same factors that influence natal dispersal.


Paper details available here:

Written by Professor Doug Armstrong

For me the hihi story started during my MSc 25 years ago when I did food manipulation experiments with hummingbirds using Perky Pet feeders. Perky Pet was kind enough to ship me feeders for subsequent experiments with honeyeaters in Australia, then with hihi in New Zealand when they were reintroduced to Mokoia Island in 1994. These feeders provided the big breakthrough for managing reintroduced hihi populations. Along the way I re-trained from being a behavioural ecologist to a population ecologist so I could make myself much more useful for managing populations. My current involvement with hihi mostly involves developing population models to support the research and management of all hihi populations.

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