Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Seasonal distribution of bird populations at the Patuxent Research Refuge

January 1, 2000

A detailed study of seasonal changes in bird populationswas made at the Patuxent Research Refuge, located between Bowie and Laurel, Maryland during the years 1936-1949. The history of the Refuge is reviewed and its physical and biological characteristlcs summarized.. The methods of study used during the investigation mcluded: periodic censuses of a representative 304-acre study area over a two-year period; a census of the breeding population of the entire. Refuge during one year; detailed population studies of representative habitats during the breeding season; censuses of the wintering population of. the entire Refuge during two years; general surveys of wintering populations for seven years; and general observations of seasonal changes in bird populatlons over a fourteen-year period, including data from an extensive banding program and from many special types of censuses. The phenology of the Refuge is described in conslderable detail throughout the year, with special attention given to major fluctuatIons in bIrd populations as correlated with climatic changes and with seasonal aspectlon. of the vegetation. The component specIes of birds m the more important migration waves are listed. Figures approximating the Refuge breeding and wmtering populations are given, while indices representing the relative abundance of bird populations, based on figures from the two-year seasonal populatlon study, were obtained for the entire year. The greatest variety of species as well as the greatest number of individuals occurred on the Refuge during the migration .periods in spring and fall, the variety of species being slightly higher in spring than in fa!l, while the population of individuals was considerably higher in fall. Wmtering and breeding populations were low and relatively stable compared to the populations at other seasons.The ecological affinities of the bird populations differed greatly from one season to another. Species characteristic of edge habitats were much more numerous in winter, while forest species were predominant in summer. Insectivorous species comprised a large proportion (40 to 60 percent) of the total population during the warmer months, but were of minor importance in winter. The greatest number of species of birds on the Refuge occurred during the population peaks of insectivorous species, while the largest number of individuals was found during the population peaks of omnivorous and herbivorous species. The population peaks of insectivorous species were found to occur much later in spring and considerably earlier in fall than the. corresponding peaks of omnivorous and herbivorous species. The Fringillidae contributed the greatest number of individuals in winter, while the Parulidae was the most important family (numerically) in summer. Water birds and marsh birds were relatively unimportant throughout the year, due to the scarcity of suitable habitats. Permanent resident species were found to vary from about one-fifth to slightly less than one-half of the total population throughout the year, although many individuals of these species were either transients or part-time residents. Summer residents and winter residents were more abundant than permanent residents during their respective periods of occurrence. During the greater part of the migration period, transient species were found to comprise only 10 to 20 percent of the total population. transient individuals of all species would account for a much larger proportion of the population at this time. After comparing the results of these investigations with similar studies in other areas, it is believed that the seasonal population changes on the Patuxent Research Refuge are fairly representative of those occurring throughout the Middle Atlantic and East-central States. Yearly variations in seasonal population changes are described and the causative factors indicated, when known. Of these, food supply and weather conditions were generally the m

Publication Year 2000
Title Seasonal distribution of bird populations at the Patuxent Research Refuge
Authors R. E. Stewart, J.B. Cope, C.S. Robbins, J.W. Brainerd
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, annual meeting abstract book
Index ID 5222380
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center