We investigated the yearlong territorial behavior of White-bellied Antbirds (Myrmeciza longipes) in Panama by conducting 17 experimental removals during the nonbreeding season on both sexes. We also monitored the territorial behavior and occupancy of 48 males and 34 females throughout the nonbreeding and breeding seasons. We tested the importance of territory switching, mate advertisement, foray behavior, and role of floaters. In seven of the removal experiments, both members of a pair were radiotagged and tracked throughout the duration of the experiments. It was predicted that widowed birds would attempt to attract a new mate through increased song rate or unique vocalizations; however, that behavior was not observed in White-bellied Antbirds. We documented a weak response in floaters to territorial vacancies and found that territory switching occurs regularly in response to experimental removals and naturally within populations. We found density of birds in an area influences the probability of replacement and is likely a reflection of territory quality given that birds in high-density areas were in better physical condition, spent less time off-territory, and competed more for those territories. Telemetry revealed that individuals made silent extraterritorial forays during the nonbreeding season. Birds could use those forays to assess the quality and status of neighboring territories and to find food during this period when food abundance is low. Several birds were observed to temporarily abandon territorial behavior for periods from 2 to 13 months, a previously undocumented behavior in this type of territorial system.
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Vol. 121 • No. 2