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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 287532, 7 pages
Research Article

Learning the Hard Way: Imprinting Can Enhance Enforced Shifts in Habitat Choice

Animal Ecology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden

Received 29 June 2011; Revised 30 August 2011; Accepted 16 September 2011

Academic Editor: Zachariah Gompert

Copyright © 2011 Niclas Vallin and Anna Qvarnström. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We investigated the potential importance of learning in habitat choice within a young hybrid zone of two closely related species of birds. Pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) are being excluded from deciduous habitats into a mixed forest type by collared flycatchers (F. albicollis). We investigated whether this enforced habitat shift influenced reproductive isolation between the two species, and, by cross-fostering nestlings, we tested whether learning may lead to a corresponding shift in habitat choice in consecutive generations. Our results show that the majority of the recruits, even if translocated across different habitat types, return to breed in the area where they were fostered. As male pied flycatchers were more likely to hybridize in the originally preferred habitat, we argue that early imprinting on an alternate habitat can play an important role in increasing reproductive isolation and facilitate regional coexistence between species experiencing secondary contact.