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Dispersal affects the social contexts individuals experience by redistributing individuals in space, and the nature of social interactions can have important fitness consequences. During the vagrancy stage of natal dispersal, after an individual has left its natal site and before it has settled to breed, social affiliations might be predicted by opportunities to associate (e.g., distance in space and time between natal points of origin) or kin preferences. We investigated the social structure of a population of juvenile great tits (Parus major) and asked whether social affiliations during vagrancy were predicted by 1) the distance between natal nest-boxes, 2) synchrony in fledge dates, and 3) accounting for spatial and temporal predictors, whether siblings tended to stay together. We show that association strength was affected predominantly by spatial proximity at fledging and, to a lesser extent, temporal proximity in birth dates. Independently of spatial and temporal effects, sibling pairs associated more often than expected by chance. Our results suggest that the structure of the winter population is shaped primarily by limits to dispersal through incomplete population mixing. In addition, our results reveal kin structure, and hence the scope for fitness-related interactions between particular classes of kin. Both spatial-mediated and socially mediated population structuring can have implications for our understanding of the evolution of sociality.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Ecol

Publication Date





1263 - 1268


kin structure, natal dispersal, population viscosity, social behavior, vagrancy.