Habitat guild drives variation in apparent survival of landbirds in the Great Plains

TitleHabitat guild drives variation in apparent survival of landbirds in the Great Plains
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsVerheijen, BHF, Rintoul, DA, Sandercock, BK
JournalWilson Journal of Ornithology
KeywordsCormack-Jolly-Seber models, habitat guilds, site fidelity, songbird, tallgrass prairie, woodpe

Many species of songbirds in the United States have shown widespread declines in population numbers during the last five decades. To understand ongoing declines and plan for conservation, researchers need reliable estimates of adult survival and site fidelity. However, variation in adult survival and site fidelity within and among species is substantial and could have consequences for management. Estimates of adult survival are lacking for many bird species and ecoregions, including the Great Plains. In this field study, we used Cormack-Jolly-Seber mark-recapture models to analyze encounter histories of 17 species of birds captured with a 13-year systematic mist-netting effort in northeast Kansas. We estimated annual rates of apparent adult survival (/) and corrected for the probability of capture (p), and tested for effects of sex and breeding habitat guild. We present the first estimates of apparent survival for six species of songbirds, and the first estimates from the Great Plains for 13 species. Apparent survival tended to be higher for males than for females, and we found a sex effect on the probability of capture for one species. Unexpectedly, grassland- and shrubland-breeding species had higher estimates of apparent survival than forest-breeding species. Our results did not support the prevailing viewpoint that birds breeding in dynamic landscapes, such as frequently burned grasslands, should show lower apparent survival than species that breed in woody habitats. We demonstrate that habitat plays an important role in the survival and site fidelity of songbirds, and that regional differences in habitat structure could drive variation in demography. Understanding the drivers of true survival and site fidelity of songbirds will allow region-specific management for species of conservation concern.