Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats

Abstract

Understanding factors that limit the productivity and survival of birds in rapidly changing human-dominated landscapes are key to managing future population persistence. To date, few studies have quantified both nest success and post-fledging survival for birds breeding within the suburban matrix. Here, we estimated nest success and juvenile post-fledging survival for Gray Catbirds (Dumatella carolinensis) and used those site-specific parameters to model source–sink dynamics at three sites in suburban Washington DC (USA). Cumulative nest success probability varied substantially among suburban sites and indicated that in some cases suburban habitats may provide suitable breeding sites for passerine birds. In addition, we documented the effects of sex and brood size on post-fledging survival rates and determined the role of predation on dispersing fledglings. Like nest success, estimates of post-fledging juvenile survival also varied among sites and highlight the importance of site-specific demographic estimates in urban habitats. Predation accounted for 79% of all mortalities, with 47% of known predation events attributable to domestic cats (Felis catus). Our models of source–sink dynamics underscore the importance of seasonal recruitment parameters for calculating population growth rate and subsequent persistence. This study provides parameter estimates for two critical life history stages in the avian annual cycle in the suburban matrix and posits that predation drives differential nest and post-fledging survival within human-dominated environments.

Zusammenfassung

Um zu gewährleisten, dass Populationen in der Zukunft fortbestehen, liegt ein Schlüssel im Verständnis der Faktoren, die in sich rasant verändernden, menschendominierten Lebensräumen die Produktivität und das Überleben von Vögeln begrenzen. Bis heute haben nur wenige Studien sowohl den Bruterfolg als auch das Überleben nach dem Ausfliegen von Vögeln untersucht, die in der suburbanen Matrix brüten. Wir haben hier den Bruterfolg und die Überlebensrate von Jungvögeln der Katzendrossel (Dumatella carolinensis) nach dem Ausfliegen bestimmt und verwendeten diese ortsabhängigen Parameter für eine Modellierung der Quellen-Senken-Dynamiken an drei Standorten in Vorstädten von Washington DC (USA). Die kumulierte Bruterfolgswahrscheinlichkeit unterschied sich stark zwischen den Standorten und wies darauf hin, dass in einigen Fällen Vorstadthabitate durchaus passende Brutplätze für Singvögel bieten. Zusätzlich dokumentierten wir den Einfluss von Geschlecht und Brutgröße auf die Überlebensraten nach dem Ausfliegen und bestimmten die Rolle von Prädation auf dispergierende Jungvögel nach dem flügge werden. Ebenso wie der Bruterfolg variierten die Schätzungen der Überlebensraten der Jungvögel nach dem Ausfliegen zwischen den Standorten und unterstreichen die Bedeutung ortsspezifischer demographischer Bestimmungen in städtischen Lebensräumen. Prädation war in 79% die Todesursache, dabei gingen 47% der Prädationsereignisse auf Hauskatzen (Felis catus) zurück. Unsere Modelle der Quellen-Senken-Dynamiken betonen die Bedeutung saisonaler Rekrutierungsparameter zur Berechnung von Wachstumsraten und darauf folgendem Fortbestehen von Populationen. Die vorliegende Arbeit erlaubt Parameterschätzungen für zwei kritische Lebensphasen im Jahreszyklus von Vögeln in der Vorstadtmatrix und stellt heraus, dass in menschendominierten Lebensräumen Prädation maßgeblich zu Unterschieden in der Überlebensrate im Nest und nach dem Ausfliegen führt.

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Acknowledgments

We thank N. Diggs, A. Struzinski and B. Johnson for dedicated assistance. C. Studds for statistical help and L.S. Johnson for invaluable editing and comments. The Mills Corporation and support from the Smithsonian Endowment Funds supported this research. All research was in compliance with Smithsonian IACUC protocols.

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Correspondence to Thomas B. Ryder.

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Communicated by P. H. Becker.

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Balogh, A.L., Ryder, T.B. & Marra, P.P. Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats. J Ornithol 152, 717–726 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-011-0648-7

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Keywords

  • Cats
  • Nest survival
  • Post-fledging survival
  • Urbanization
  • Source–sink dynamics