Urban parks -- United States, Passerines, Avian biology
Substantial offspring mortality can occur during the postfledging period of birds, but few postfledging survival studies have been conducted within the context of habitat suitability. We conducted a 2-year radiotelemetry study of Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) reproductive success and fledgling survival in a 24-ha forested park in a residential area of Lake Oswego, Oregon. In corroboration of previous research on this species, we found (1) that Spotted Towhees nested closer to the edge between the park and residential neighborhoods than expected by chance, and (2) that pairs nesting near edges produced the largest and most offspring. However, fates were reversed during the postfledging period. Thirty-six of 52 fledglings survived the 27-day tracking period, and although fledglings were more likely to be found near edges than in the interior, fledglings near edges had a far higher probability of dying. All deaths were from predation, and at least 11 of 16 predation events were attributable to Domestic Cats (Felis catus) and Western Screech-Owls (Megascops kennicottii). A stochastic model that incorporated probability of nest success, nestling production from successful nests, and fledgling survival showed that the number of independent offspring produced per nest was greatest in the park interior. Heavy use of, and apparent preference for, edge by nesting Spotted Towhees, coupled with high fledgling mortality near edges, created a severe ecological trap that was not apparent until the final stage of parental care. Hence, failure to document offspring survival in the late stages of reproduction may lead to incorrect assessment of habitat suitability and poor management decisions.
Shipley, A. A., Murphy, M. T., & Elzinga, A. H. (2013). Residential edges as ecological traps: postfledging survival of a ground-nesting passerine in a forested urban park. The Auk, 130(3), 501-511.