Evidence of a Minimum Patch Size Threshold of Reproductive Success in an Endangered Songbird
Authors: J. A. Butcher, M. L. Morrison, D. Ransom, Jr., R. D. Slack, and R. N. Wilkins
That area-sensitive songbirds breed only in relatively large patches suggests that there may be a minimum patch size threshold in which they will breed, even when controlling for the total amount of habitat in the landscape. We searched for minimum patch size thresholds of presence, territory establishment by males, pairing success, and reproductive success for 2 migratory songbirds that differed in sensitivity to patch size: golden-cheeked warblers (Dendroica chrysoparia) and white-eyed vireos (Vireo griseus). We assessed 2 potential limiting factors: brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) parasitism and arthropod biomass (food resource). We determined whether either factor was related to patch size and compared measurements of each above and below the observed thresholds. We monitored 24 golden-cheeked warbler and 47 white-eyed vireo territories in 12 patches. We found evidence of a minimum patch size threshold (between 15.0 ha and 20.1 ha) of reproductive success for golden-cheeked warblers, but not for white-eyed vireos. We found no minimum patch size thresholds for presence, territory establishment by males, or pair formation for either species. Conservation practices based on thresholds of presence, territory establishment, or pair formation might not address issues of reproduction for golden-cheeked warblers. We failed to find evidence that cowbird parasitism or arthropod biomass were limiting factors. The ability to identify patch size thresholds of reproductive success for target species could be useful in conservation and management for setting goals for retention and restoration of target species’ habitat patch size.
Butcher, J. A., M. L. Morrison, R. D. Ransom, Jr., R. D. Slack, and R. N. Wilkins. 2010. Evidence of a minimum patch size threshold of reproductive success in an endangered songbird. Journal of Wildlife Management 74:133-139.