Paper Presented at Winter Meeting

I presented a talk at a conference in Colorado on my examination of the “foothold model”, which attempts to explain how young animals settle on territories. The model supposes that a young animal settles within a home range that includes  territories defended by several established breeders, wait for one of them to die, and then take ownership. Critically, it is the period of residency of a young animal within the defended territories that allows it to claim the breeding vacancy that becomes available, according to the model, because during this period the young animal accumulates site-familiarity and a “home-court advantage” within those territories. By this means, it is able to compete successfully for the breeding slot against other young animals. Although the model is intuitive and interesting and appears to apply to several other species of birds, loons do not seem to settle this way. Lack of tolerance of territory owners for young loons appears to prevent a home-court effect, so the pattern can never get started. Instead, young loons seem to visit many territories for brief periods in order to size up the owners and engage in territorial battles with owners they think they can defeat. Since they cannot gain a home-court advantage anywhere, it is simply the strength and fighting ability of a young loon that allows it to fight successfully in such cases.