Philopatry and colony fidelity of Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis on the east coast of Britain.
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis colonies from the Firth of Forth south to the Farne Islands (SE Scotland and NE England) were surveyed in 1982 and 1983 for nesting Shags ringed as chicks or adults in the previous 20 years. On average, 5% of 863 Shags ringed as chicks were breeding away from their natal colony, and only 1% of 401 marked adults had left their breeding colony. The proportion p of chicks that settled at or beyond distance D from the natal colony followed the relationship p = 0.263D-0.771, implying that more Shags moved 10 km or beyond to breed than expected from diffusion models or a constant-rate dispersal model; adjusted for birds that settled outside the study area, the relationship was p = 0.314D-0.771. There was no effect of colony size on emigration rate, but females showed a greater tendency to settle away from the natal colony than did males. At the natal colony, more males (69%) than females (47%) nested within 300 m of their birthplace. Two mechanisms appear to determine where a Shag settles to breed: a navigational one governing the return to the natal colony, plus the competitive process of nest-site establishment.