Some of the literature on birds maintains that pied flycatcher pairs return year after year to the same nest box, but I think one should view such statements with a good deal of scepticism. Research shows that around 40% of all migrating pied flycatchers survive and return. Of these, adult males show the strongest urge to return to their home territory, but only half as many adult females return to the previous year's territory. Only a few one year olds return to the territory in which they were reared.
From the few birds which I have ringed, 16 adult females in 1974, 11 in 1975, and 16 in 1976. the return rates were as follows: 3 (19%) from 1974 returned in 1975,3 (27%) from 1975 returned in 1976, and 2 (I29?) from 1976 returned in 1977 None of these birds bred in the same nest box as in previous years.
Research has shown that females which do not come sufficiently near to last year's breeding place do not attempt to return to their old territory and settle themselves anywhere within the 'breeding area". During migration, birds follow specific routes. Many arc of the opinion that this involves reading the landscape in precisely the same way that an orienteer reads a map. If the bird misses its destination bccausc of a slight deviation from the route, it will not remember its old nesting area, but will breed instead in an area which may be many kilometres from the starting point.
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