Habitat specialist birds disperse farther and are more migratory than habitat generalist birds
Some theories predict habitat specialists should be less dispersive and migratory than generalists, while other theories predict the opposite. We evaluated the cross-species relationship between the degree of habitat specialization and dispersal and migration status in 101 bird species breeding in North America and the United Kingdom, using empirical estimates of the degree of habitat specialization from breeding bird surveys and mean dispersal distance estimates from large-scale mark-recapture studies. We found that habitat specialists dispersed farther than habitat generalists, and full migrants had more specialized habitat than partial migrants or resident species. To our knowledge this is the first large-scale, multi-species study to demonstrate a positive relationship between the degree of habitat specialization and dispersal, and it is opposite to the pattern found for invertebrates. This finding is particularly interesting because it suggests that trade-offs between the degree of habitat specialization and dispersal ability are not conserved across taxonomic groups. This cautions against extrapolation of trait co-occurrence from one species group to another. In particular, it suggests that efforts aimed at conserving the most habitat-specialist temperate-breeding birds will not lead to conservation of the most dispersal-limited species.