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Seasonal productivity in a population of migratory songbirds: why nest data are not enough

January 1, 2012

Population models for many animals are limited by a lack of information regarding juvenile survival. In particular, studies of songbird reproductive output typically terminate with the success or failure of nests, despite the fact that adults spend the rest of the reproductive season rearing dependent fledglings. Unless fledgling survival does not vary, or varies consistently with nest productivity, conclusions about population dynamics based solely on nest data may be misleading. During 2007 and 2008, we monitored nests and used radio telemetry to monitor fledgling survival for a population of Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) in a managed-forest landscape in north-central Minnesota, USA. In addition to estimating nest and fledgling survival, we modeled growth for population segments partitioned by proximity to edges of non-nesting cover types (regenerating clearcuts). Nest survival was significantly lower, but fledgling survival was significantly higher, in 2007 than in 2008. Despite higher nest productivity in 2008, seasonal productivity (number of young surviving to independence per breeding female) was higher in 2007. Proximity to clearcut edge did not affect nest productivity. However, fledglings from nests near regenerating sapling-dominated clearcuts (7–20 years since harvest) had higher daily survival (0.992 ± 0.005) than those from nests in interior forest (0.978 ± 0.006), which in turn had higher daily survival than fledglings from nests near shrub-dominated clearcuts (≤6 years since harvest; 0.927 ± 0.030) in 2007, with a similar but statistically non-significant trend in 2008. Our population growth models predicted growth rates that differed by 2–39% (x¯ = 25%) from simpler models in which we replaced our estimates of first-year survival with one-half adult annual survival (an estimate commonly used in songbird population growth models). We conclude that nest productivity is an inadequate measure of songbird seasonal productivity, and that results based exclusively on nest data can yield misleading conclusions about population growth and clearcut edge effects. We suggest that direct estimates of juvenile survival could provide more accurate information for the management and conservation of many animal taxa.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Seasonal productivity in a population of migratory songbirds: why nest data are not enough
DOI 10.1890/ES10-00187.1
Authors Henry M. Streby, David E. Andersen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Series Number
Index ID 70168412
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown

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