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Habitat-Specific Demography of Breeding Black-Throated Blue Warblers (Dendroica caerulescens): Implications for Population Dynamics

Richard T. Holmes, Peter P. Marra and Thomas W. Sherry
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 65, No. 2 (Mar., 1996), pp. 183-195
DOI: 10.2307/5721
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/5721
Page Count: 13
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Habitat-Specific Demography of Breeding Black-Throated Blue Warblers (Dendroica caerulescens): Implications for Population Dynamics
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Abstract

1. The distribution of individuals among habitats and their relative success in those habitats can have important consequences for population dynamics. To examine these processes for a long-distance migratory bird species, we studied the population structure, age-specific reproductive output, and local survival of black-throated blue warblers (Dendroica caerulescens, Gmelin) in two breeding habitats differing in shrub density within northern hardwoods forests in New Hampshire, USA. 2. On forest plots with dense shrubs, warblers occurred at higher densities, and fledged significantly more young per capita per season than those occupying areas with lower shrub density. This differential productivity was due to higher reproductive output, mainly through double-brooding, of older (>= 2 years of age) individuals, which were disproportionately more abundant in high shrub density sites. 3. Clutch initiation dates, clutch sizes, and predation rates at individual nests did not differ significantly between habitats. Mean body mass of nestlings on day 6 following hatching were higher on average on plots with high shrub density, but differences were not significant. 4. Annual return rates, as indices of local survival, did not differ between habitats for older males or for females. Yearling males, however, returned in subsequent years at a significantly lower rate to low shrub density plots, a result of either lower survival or, more likely, dispersal to more suitable habitat in their second year of breeding. 5. Parental age and habitat suitability interact in that older individuals, through their experience and/or dominance, acquire sites of higher quality, which results in higher reproductive output and probably higher survival. These differences between habitats in density, reproductive performance and local survival are consistent with an ideal-despotic/preemptive distribution of individuals, and suggest that this population could be regulated by the availability, distribution, and extent of high and low quality breeding habitats.

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