Authors: T. L. Pope

Many factors affect the productivity of songbirds. Which vegetation types the birds inhabit, nest-site characteristics, and adult behavior at the nest may affect predation and parasitism frequencies, fecundity, and nest survival and fledgling survival. All of these metrics determine reproductive success of individuals and may influence population persistence, especially for threatened and endangered species. My research investigated factors that affected these metrics for endangered black-capped vireos (Vireo atricapilla). Shrubland is considered high quality vireo habitat, with woodland vegetation types considered marginal. I located and monitored nests, conducted nest behavior observations, recorded behavior and predation at nests using video cameras, and resighted fledglings in shrubland, oak-juniper woodland, and deciduous woodland during the 2008–2010 breeding seasons.

I monitored 302 black-capped vireo nests in 259 territories and resighted 350 fledglings with unique color combinations. Apparent nest success, nest survival, success of first nest attempts, parasitism and predation frequency, and fecundity did not differ statistically among vegetation types. Parasitism frequency was nearly twice as high in shrubland (22%) than in either woodland (12% in each) and varied by year. Nest-site characteristics differed among vegetation types, but nest survival was affected only by nest height and year; nests placed higher from the ground and nest attempts in 2008 and 2009 had lower survival. Fledgling survival was not affected by vegetation type or proximity of the nest to oak-juniper woodland. Nest behavior was not affected by vegetation characteristics, though nest attentiveness during incubation increased as average cover from 0 to 2 m increased. Females spent 80% more time on nests during incubation and 250% more time on nests during the nestling stage than males, but visitation was similar for each sex. Overall, the probability of nest success improved as male participation increased.

Suggested Citation

Pope, T. L. 2011.  Effects of habitat characteristics and adult behavior on black-capped vireo nest and fledgling survival.  Dissertation, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.