Survival during the breeding season: Nest stage, parental sex, and season advancement affect reed warbler survival

Kaja Wierucka, Lucyna Halupka, Ewelina Klimczuk, Hanna Sztwiertnia

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    Avian annual survival has received much attention, yet little is known about seasonal patterns in survival, especially of migratory passerines. In order to evaluate survival rates and timing of mortality within the breeding season of adult reed warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), mark-recapture data were collected in southwest Poland, between 2006 and 2012. A total of 612 individuals (304 females and 308 males) were monitored throughout the entire breeding season, and their capture-recapture histories were used to model survival rates. Males showed higher survival during the breeding season (0.985, 95% CI: 0.941-0.996) than females (0.869, 95% CI: 0.727-0.937). Survival rates of females declined with the progression of the breeding season (from May to August), while males showed constant survival during this period. We also found a clear pattern within the female (but not male) nesting cycle: survival was significantly lower during the laying, incubation, and nestling periods (0.934, 95% CI: 0.898-0.958), when birds spent much time on the nest, compared to the nest building and fledgling periods (1.000, 95% CI: 1.00-1.000), when we did not record any female mortality. These data (coupled with some direct evidence, like bird corpses or blood remains found next to/on the nest) may suggest that the main cause of adult mortality was on-nest predation. The calculated survival rates for both sexes during the breeding season were high compared to annual rates reported for this species, suggesting that a majority of mortality occurs at other times of the year, during migration or wintering. These results have implications for understanding survival variation within the reproductive period as well as general trends of avian mortality.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0148063
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2016

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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