Minimum Patch Size Thresholds of Reproductive Success of Songbirds
Authors: J. A. Butcher
Preservation of large tracts of habitat is often recommended for long-term population viability of area-sensitive species. Large tracts may not always be available. Smaller patches, though not able to contain a viable population individually, may contribute to overall regional population viability if within the small patches pairs could successfully reproduce. By definition, area-sensitive species should have a minimum patch size threshold of habitat below which they will not likely reproduce. Two potential causes for positive relationships between patch size and production are inverse relationships between patch size and brood parasitism and patch size and food availability. My objectives were (1) to determine the minimum patch size thresholds of reproductive success for golden-cheeked warblers (Dendroica chrysoparia), black-and-white warblers (Mniotilta varia), and white-eyed vireos (Vireo griseus); (2) to determine whether thresholds for occupancy, territory establishment by males, or pairing success were indicative of thresholds of reproduction; (3) to determine whether the proportion of pairs fledging brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) young was related to patch size, and (4) to determine the affects of patch size on food availability (i.e., arthropod abundance). The Vickery index of reproductive activity was used to determine reproductive activity of each male or pair and to quantify parasitism occurrences. I collected arthropods using branch clipping to assess the relationship between patch size and arthropod abundance. I found minimum patch size thresholds of reproductive success for golden-cheeked and black-and-white warblers, but not for white-eyed vireos. Minimum patch size of reproductive success was between 15 and 20.1 ha. Minimum patch size thresholds for occupancy, territory establishment by males, and pair formation were not consistent with thresholds for reproductive success. I found no relationships between patch size and cowbird parasitism or patch size and arthropod biomass. Conservation practices for target species based on thresholds of occupancy, territory establishment, or pair formation may not address issues of reproduction. The ability to identify thresholds of reproductive success for target species could be useful in conservation and management in multiple ways including setting goals for retention and restoration of a target species’ habitat patch size.
Butcher, J. A. 2008. Minimum Patch Size Thresholds of Reproductive Success of Songbirds. Dissertation, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.