Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 109–122 | Cite as

Effects of spatial habitat heterogeneity on habitat selection and annual fecundity for a migratory forest songbird

  • Kerri L. CornellEmail author
  • Therese M. Donovan
Research Article


Understanding how spatial habitat patterns influence abundance and dynamics of animal populations is a primary goal in landscape ecology. We used an information-theoretic approach to investigate the association between habitat patterns at multiple spatial scales and demographic patterns for black-throated blue warblers (Dendroica caerulescens) at 20 study sites in west-central Vermont, USA from 2002 to 2005. Sites were characterized by: (1) territory-scale shrub density, (2) patch-scale shrub density occurring within 25 ha of territories, and (3) landscape-scale habitat patterns occurring within 5 km radius extents of territories. We considered multiple population parameters including abundance, age ratios, and annual fecundity. Territory-scale shrub density was most important for determining abundance and age ratios, but landscape-scale habitat structure strongly influenced reproductive output. Sites with higher territory-scale shrub density had higher abundance, and were more likely to be occupied by older, more experienced individuals compared to sites with lower shrub density. However, annual fecundity was higher on sites located in contiguously forested landscapes where shrub density was lower than the fragmented sites. Further, effects of habitat pattern at one spatial scale depended on habitat conditions at different scales. For example, abundance increased with increasing territory-scale shrub density, but this effect was much stronger in fragmented landscapes than in contiguously forested landscapes. These results suggest that habitat pattern at different spatial scales affect demographic parameters in different ways, and that effects of habitat patterns at one spatial scale depends on habitat conditions at other scales.


Abundance Black-throated blue warbler Dendroica caerulescens Habitat heterogeneity Habitat selection Reproductive success Spatial population dynamics 



This project was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, and US Department of Agriculture McIntyre Stennis fund. We thank R. T. Holmes, A. M. Strong, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. Finally, this project would not have been possible without the hard work and persistence of many field assistants. The Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is jointly sponsored by the US Geological Survey, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, the University of Vermont, and the Wildlife Management Institute. Use of trade names in this article does not confer government endorsement.

Supplementary material

10980_2009_9405_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCollege of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  2. 2.Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  3. 3.United States Geological Survey, Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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