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Nesting ecology of Townsend's warblers in relation to habitat characteristics in a mature boreal forest

January 1, 1997

We investigated the nesting ecology of Townsend's Warblers (Dendroica townsendi) from 1993-1995 in an unfragmented boreal forest along the lower slopes of the Chugach Mountains in southcentral Alaska. We examined habitat characteristics of nest sites in relation to factors influencing reproductive success. Almost all territory-holding males (98%, n = 40) were successful in acquiring mates. Nest success was 54% (n = 24 nests), with nest survivorship greater during incubation (87%) than during the nestling period (62%). Most nesting failure (80%) was attributable to predation, which occurred primarily during the nestling period. Fifty-five percent of nests containing nestling were infested with the larvae of bird blow-flies (Protocalliphora braueri and P. spenceri), obligatory blood-feeding parasites. The combined effects of Protocalliphora infestation and inclement weather apparently resulted in nestling mortality in 4 of the 24 nests. Nests that escaped predation were placed in white spruce with larger diameter than those lost to predation: nests that escaped blow-fly parasitism were located higher in nest trees and in areas with lower densities of woody shrubs than those that were infested. The availability of potential nest sites with these key features may be important in determining reproductive success in Townsend's Warblers.

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