Use of fecundity measured directly throughout the breeding season to test a source-sink demographic model

No Thumbnail Available
Rogers, Christopher M.
Issue Date
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Alternative Title

Populations of landbirds (bird species that occupy terrestrial habitats for most of their life cycle) are declining throughout North America (north of Mexico) and Europe, yet little is known about how demography is driving this trend. A recent model of 5 geographically separated populations of Cerulean Warblers (Dendroica cerulea) that was based on within-season sampling of nest survival and fledgling success shows that all populations are sinks (annual reproduction is consistently less than annual adult mortality). I tested this indirect model by directly measuring fecundity (number of female fledglings/female) during the breeding season for 2 years in a Cerulean Warbler population occupying a mature forest in southwestern Michigan (U.S.A.) I determined territories of male birds on the basis of male plumage characters and phases of the nesting cycle (2007) and on uniquely color-banded males (2008). I transferred locations of identified males to topographic maps. I counted all fledglings in territories from May to July each year. The model I tested may apply only to single-brooded species; therefore, I searched the literature to estimate the percentage of single-brooded species in North America. The breeding season of Cerulean Warblers was short- nearly all nests were initiated from mid-May to late June. Nest predation and brood parasitism were primary and rare causes of nest failure, respectively. Significantly fewer Cerulean Warblers fledged from parasitized than from nonparasitized nests. Fledgling survival required to maintain the population size was well above previously published values for Neotropical migrants. Single-brooded species comprise 62% of North American breeding bird species for which the number of broods per year is known; I believe my results may apply to these species. The consistency between identification of populations as sources or sinks on the basis of either model estimates or direct measurements suggests that a demographic model relying on within-season sampling of fecundity is adequate to determine population status of single-brooded avian populations. In addition, on the basis of results of previous studies, annual adult survival rate of the Cerulean Warbler is typical of parulid warblers that are not declining. Thus, low fecundity, here determined with different quantitative methods, can drive status of landbird species with high-observed survival.

Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. 2011 Dec; 25(6): 1212-1219.
PubMed ID