Impacts of nest predators and weather on reproductive success and population limitation in a long-distance migratory songbird

TitleImpacts of nest predators and weather on reproductive success and population limitation in a long-distance migratory songbird
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSherry, TW, Wilson, S, Hunter, S, Holmes, RT
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Paginationn/a - n/a
Date Published2015/05/01/
ISBN Number1600-048X

Although avian nesting success is much studied, little is known about the relative importance of the factors that contribute to annual reproductive success and population limitation, especially for long-distance migratory songbird species. We combined a field experiment limiting access to nests by mammalian predators with modeling of long-term field data of American redstarts (Parulidae: Setophaga ruticilla) to assess the effects of multiple environmental variables on breeding success and population limitation. Experimental treatment (baffles placed around tree boles beneath active nests; n = 71) increased nesting success of this single-brooded species significantly (77 vs 50% in controls; n = 343), demonstrating that scansorial mammals, primarily red squirrels Tamiasciurus hudsonicus and eastern chipmunks Tamias striatus, reduced reproductive success. Based on unbaffled nests (n = 466), daily nest survival varied annually, and was positively influenced by May temperature and negatively by sciurid nest predator abundance. Daily nest survival was also influenced positively by June rainfall, and declined with nest age but not with calendar date. Since nest failure was overwhelmingly caused by nest predation, these significant climate and nest-age effects in our models are indirect, likely influencing nest predator and/or nesting bird behaviors that in turn influenced nest predation. Redstart population density had no effect on nesting success, after accounting for other factors. Annual reproductive success accounted for 34% of the variability in annual population change in redstarts in our study area. Our findings document 1) breeding season population limitation in this species, 2) a link between tree masting and bird population dynamics via mammal population fluctuations, 3) the independent contributions of summer versus winter population processes in a migratory species, and 4) the potential complexity of climate-biotic interactions.

Short TitleJ Avian Biol