An important question in ecology is how mechanistic processes occurring among individuals drive large-scale patterns of community formation and change. Here we show that in two species of bluebirds, cycles of replacement of one by the other emerge as an indirect consequence of maternal influence on offspring behavior in response to local resource availability. Sampling across broad temporal and spatial scales, we found that western bluebirds, the more competitive species, bias the birth order of offspring by sex in a way that influences offspring aggression and dispersal, setting the stage for rapid increases in population density that ultimately result in the replacement of their sister species. Our results provide insight into how predictable community dynamics can occur despite the contingency of local behavioral interactions.
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