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  1. Dispersal is a critical process influencing population dynamics and responses to global change. Long‐distance dispersal (LDD) can be especially important for gene flow and adaptability, although little is known about the factors influencing LDD because studying large‐scale movements is challenging and LDD tends to be observed less frequently than shorter‐distance dispersal (SDD).
  2. We sought to understand patterns of natal dispersal at a large scale, specifically aiming to understand the relative frequency of LDD compared to SDD and correlates of dispersal distances.
  3. We used bird banding and encounter data for American kestrels (Falco sparverius) to investigate the effects of sex, migration strategy, population density, weather, year and agricultural land cover on LDD frequency, LDD distance and SDD distance in North America from 1961 to 2015.
  4. Nearly half of all natal dispersal (48.9%) was LDD (classified as >30 km), and the likelihood of LDD was positively associated with the proportion of agricultural land cover around natal sites. Correlates of distance differed between LDD and SDD movements. LDD distance was positively correlated with latitude, a proxy for migration strategy, suggesting that migratory individuals disperse farther than residents. Distance of LDD in males was positively associated with maximum summer temperature. We did not find sex‐bias or an effect of population density in LDD distance or frequency. Within SDD, females tended to disperse farther than males, and distance was positively correlated with density. Sampling affected all responses, likely because local studies more frequently capture SDD within study areas.
  5. Our findings that LDD occurs at a relatively high frequency and is related to different proximate factors from SDD, including a lack of sex‐bias in LDD, suggest that LDD may be more common than previously reported, and LDD and SDD may be distinct processes rather than two outcomes originating from a single dispersal distribution. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that LDD and SDD may be separate processes in an avian species, and suggests that environmental change may have different outcomes on the two processes.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.