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Radio-tracking reveals insight into survival and dynamic habitat selection of fledgling Cerulean Warblers

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Raybuck, Douglas ; Larkin, Jeffery ; Stoleson, Scott ; Boves, Than J.

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The Condor


For most bird species, little is known about their ecology and survival between fledging and independence despite the potential for post-fledging survival to be a factor limiting population dynamics. Cerulean Warblers (Setophaga cerulea) are a declining migratory species, and full-life-cycle conservation efforts that include the post-fledging period are warranted to attempt to reverse their decline. To understand movement, habitat selection, and survival, we radio-tracked 20 fledglings throughout the dependent post-fledging period. Broods were split by their parents, typically (88%) left parental breeding territories within 12 days, and survivors moved 2.4 ± 0.7 km (mean ± SE) from their nest within the 28.1 ± 1.8 day tracking period. Fledglings were usually observed in the mid-canopy to upper canopy and selected habitat with greater mid-story cover, less basal area, and areas closer to water bodies, compared to available points, when considering data from the entire post-fledgling period. However, habitat selection varied with fledgling age. Young fledglings (0–2 days post-fledging) selected areas with greater sapling cover and less stand basal area, but as fledglings matured, they selected areas farther from canopy gaps with greater mid-story cover. Compared with nesting habitat selected by parents, fledglings used areas with smaller and more numerous trees, fewer canopy gaps, and greater mid-story cover. Survival of the entire period was 48 ± 14% and most (8/10) mortalities occurred within the first 3 days post-fledging. Evidence indicated eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) as the most common predator. Providing or retaining large tracts of forest is recommended to prevent the restriction of post-fledging dispersal, and managing forests to maintain a heterogeneous landscape that includes stands with numerous canopy gaps and dense understory (e.g., shelterwood harvests or late seral stage conditions) as well as stands with a dense mid-story (e.g., younger stands and riparian areas) appears to be important for this life stage.


Raybuck, Douglas W; Larkin, Jeffery L; Stoleson, Scott H; Boves, Than J. 2019. Radio-tracking reveals insight into survival and dynamic habitat selection of fledgling Cerulean Warblers. The Condor. 122(1): 1330-.

Last updated on: October 2, 2020