Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 133–146 | Cite as

Recapture processes and biological inference in monitoring burrow-nesting seabirds

  • Ana Sanz-AguilarEmail author
  • Giacomo Tavecchia
  • Eduardo Minguez
  • Bruno Massa
  • Fabio Lo Valvo
  • Gustavo A. Ballesteros
  • Gonzalo G. Barberá
  • Jose Francisco Amengual
  • Ana Rodriguez
  • Miguel McMinn
  • Daniel Oro
Original Article


Capture–mark–recapture methods are used widely for monitoring and diagnosis of bird populations as they permit robust estimates of population abundance and demographic parameters (e.g. survival) to be obtained from incomplete records of individual life histories. The statistical analysis of these data relies on the important assumption that individuals of the same local populations (i.e. colony) have the same parameters (the homogeneity assumption). We used data from six medium- to long-term monitoring schemes of local Mediterranean populations of the European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus to empirically show that the level of individual heterogeneity and the consequent bias in the parameter of interest depend on the recapture methodology, which has important consequences for the experimental design. We found that the recapture probability varied over time and among methodologies. The study design had a strong influence on the proportion of transients caught (i.e. individuals not recaptured after marking); however, the survival probability estimate for resident birds was fairly similar across the studies. The differences found in survival seem to depend on the biological variability between sites (e.g. predation pressure), and not on the recapture methods.


Capture–recapture analysis Monitoring scheme Procellariiformes Survival probability Transients 



Although it is impossible to write all the names of the many volunteers involved over the years in the capture–recapture studies of the Storm Petrel colonies, we would like to formally acknowledge all the people without whom these monitoring schemes would have been impossible. We are also indebted to the Environmental Monitoring Service of Benidorm Island (Serra Gelada Natural Park-Generalitat Valenciana) and Leonardo Parisi (Marettimo). Research on Marettimo Is. was funded by Assessorato Regionale Agricoltura e Foreste della Regione Siciliana to Stazione d’Inanellamento. In Murcia (Hormigas and Palomas Islands), the monitoring program was launched and maintained thanks to the long-term efforts of the Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste (ANSE) and their bird banders, collaborators and infrastructure, and in recent years to the participation of volunteer programmes of the Dirección General de Medio Natural of the Regional Government. The Grup Balear d’Ornitologia (GOB) participated in the monitoring of Na Plana. Ana Sanz-Aguilar was supported by a postgraduate grant (ref. AP2004-1128) of the Spanish Ministry of Science, which also funded some monitoring schemes through several grants (refs. BOS2003-01960, CGL2006-04325/BOS and SAB-2006-0014). Roger Pradel and two anonymous referees kindly provided valuable comments on a first draft of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Sanz-Aguilar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giacomo Tavecchia
    • 1
  • Eduardo Minguez
    • 2
  • Bruno Massa
    • 3
  • Fabio Lo Valvo
    • 3
  • Gustavo A. Ballesteros
    • 4
  • Gonzalo G. Barberá
    • 5
    • 6
  • Jose Francisco Amengual
    • 7
  • Ana Rodriguez
    • 8
  • Miguel McMinn
    • 8
  • Daniel Oro
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB)EsporlesSpain
  2. 2.Parque Natural Serra Gelada y su entorno litoral (Generalitat Valenciana)BenidormSpain
  3. 3.Dipartimento SENFIMIZO (Stazione d’Inanellamento)Universita degli Studi di PalermoPalermoItaly
  4. 4.Cota AmbientalAspeSpain
  5. 5.Department of Soil and Water ConservationCEBAS-CSIC, Campus Universitario de EspinardoEspinardoSpain
  6. 6.Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste (ANSE)MurciaSpain
  7. 7.Parque Nacional de CabreraPalma de MallorcaSpain
  8. 8.Skua S.L., Arxiduc Lluís Salvador 5 entresuelo izquierdoPalma de MallorcaSpain

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