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To better understand the dynamics of avian populations and their role in population trends, we require an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing the survival of adults and juveniles. How-ever, assessing survival in juveniles is often challenging, especially in small, migratory species where individuals typically disperse from the study area and are not available for recapture in subsequent years. Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) are a long-distance migrant that exhibits natal philopatry in at least one population, allowing for more comprehensive juvenile survival analyses than in many other long-distance avian migrants. Using a 17-yr dataset from two sites representing a Vermont population of Bobolinks, we used Program MARK to assess factors influencing apparent juvenile survival, including factors related to nesting timing, nest attempt number, the philopatric behaviors of relatives, body mass, brood size, and agricultural management scheme. Our top models indicated that nest attempt number and whether or not a nest mate also survived and returned to breed locally were important factors explaining variation in apparent survival in juvenile Bobolinks. Specifically, juveniles from first nest attempts that fledged earlier in the season, with siblings that did not survive and return to breed locally, showed higher apparent survival. Factors such as site and the philopatric behavior of females associated with nests also appeared in top-ranking models, while factors such as body mass and brood size did not. These results indicate the importance of providing high-quality breeding habitat to birds early in the season when juvenile survival is greatest and indicate that individuals may be utilizing inbreeding avoidance strategies. These results provide new insight into the ecological and agricultural management factors influencing survival in migratory species that use managed habitats and underscore the importance of integrating juvenile survival data into current management schemes to better support this and other declining species.


©2021 The Authors

Originally published:

White, E. M., N. G. Perlut, S. E. Travis, and A. M. Strong. 2021. Diverse demographic factors influence apparent juvenile survival in a migratory songbird. Ecosphere 12(10):e03761. 10.1002/ecs2.3761

Author Emma White conducted this research as a University of New England student.

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