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Broadly, philopatry is the behaviour of remaining in, or returning to, an individual's birthplace.[1] More specifically, in ecology philopatry is the behaviour of elder offspring sharing the parental burden in the upbringing of their siblings, a classic example of kin selection.[2] It derives from the Greek 'home-loving', although it can be applied to more than just the area that an animal was born in.[citation needed] Philopatry can manifest itself in several ways.

Natal philopatry[]

Species that return to their birthplace in order to breed are said to exhibit natal philopatry[3] or natal homing.

Other variations[]

Species that return in consecutive years to the same breeding site or territory exhibit breeding philopatry or site fidelity. Migrating animals also exhibit philopatry to certain important areas on their route; staging areas, stop-overs, molting areas and wintering grounds. Philopatry is generally believed to help maintain the adaptation of a population to a very specific environment (i.e., if a set of genes has evolved in a specific area, individuals that fail to return to that area may do poorly elsewhere, so natural selection will favor those who exhibit fidelity).

The level of philopatry varies within migratory families and species.

The term is sometimes also applied to animals that live in nests but do not remain in them during an unfavorable season (e.g., the winter in the temperate zone, or the dry season in the tropics), and leave to find hiding places nearby to pass the inactive period (common in various bees and wasps); this is not migration in the usual sense, as the location of the hiding place is effectively random and unique (never located or revisited except by accident), though the navigation skills required to relocate the old nest site may be similar to those of migrating animals.[citation needed]

See also[]


  1. Philopatry. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms.. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., on URL accessed on 2009-01-27.
  2. Kokko,H., et al. (2001). The evolution of cooperative breeding through group augmentation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 268 (1463): 187–196.
  3. Weatherhead, P.J. & Forbes, M.R.L. (1994). Natal philopatry in passerine birds: genetic or ecological influences?. International Society for Behavioural Ecology 5 (4): 426.

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