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Our understanding of the full life cycle of most migratory birds remains limited. Estimates of survival rates, particularly for first‐year birds are notably lacking. This knowledge gap results in imprecise parameters in population models and limits our ability to fully understand life history trade‐offs. We used eleven years of field data to estimate first‐year apparent survival (φ1st) for two species of migratory grassland songbirds that breed in the same managed habitats but have substantially different migration distances. We used a suite of life‐history, habitat and individually‐based covariates to explore causes of variation in φ1st. The interaction between fledge date and body mass was the best supported model of apparent survival. We found differential effects of fledging date based on nestling body mass. Overall, lighter nestlings had greater apparent survival than heavier nestlings; average or heavy nestlings within‐brood had greater apparent survival when they fledged earlier in the summer. We hypothesize that heavier birds that fledge earlier in the season have a longer window of opportunity to evaluate potential breeding sites and are more likely to disperse greater distances from the natal region, thus confounding survival with permanent emigration. Lighter birds, particularly those fledged late in the breeding season may spend more time on self‐maintenance and consequently have less time to evaluate potential future breeding sites, showing greater fidelity to their natal region. We found no support for management treatment (timing of mowing), sex, brood size, or species as important covariates in explaining apparent survival. Our results suggest that differential migration distances may not have a strong effect on first‐year apparent survival.


© 2016

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Perlut, N.G. and A.M. Strong, A.M. 2016. Comparative analysis of factors associated with first-year survival in two species of migratory songbirds. Journal of Avian Biology 47:858-864, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

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