Numerous species use socially derived information from conspecifics to evaluate the quality of potential habitat. We examine whether conspecific cues influence Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) behavior at uninhabited provisioned habitat, and whether their response in the pre- and post-breeding seasons differs. We used conspecific playbacks and decoys at 19 towers designed for the swift's nesting in southern Ontario, Canada, and monitored response before, during, and after the experiment. In the pre-breeding season Chimney Swifts spent more overall time within 25 m of the towers regardless of experimental treatment. The length of time individuals spent in range of the towers increased when conspecific cues were deployed. In the pre-breeding season this effect ceased with the removal of cues, while in the post-breeding season the time spent in range increased following the removal of cues. We assert that conspecific cues influence Chimney Swift behavior, particularly in the post-breeding season when juveniles are likely prospecting for future nesting sites. Settlement in the towers did not improve during the years of this study, which may be because (1) provisioned habitat did not meet other requirements for settlement, (2) conspecifics influence behavior but they are not prerequisites for habitat selection, or (3) conspecific cues must be present for longer or more frequent periods to elicit settlement. However, Chimney Swifts showed a strong behavioral response to treatment which, provided all other cues for settlement are fulfilled, indicates that conspecific cues may encourage Chimney Swifts to settle in provisioned habitat.
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Vol. 114 • No. 2