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Habitat-specific survival of golden-winged warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) during the non-breeding season in an agricultural landscape

Cite this dataset

Ritterson, Jeffrey (2021). Habitat-specific survival of golden-winged warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) during the non-breeding season in an agricultural landscape [Dataset]. Dryad.


Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds are considered priority species for conservation because they are subject to threats at distinct breeding, migratory and stopover locations throughout their annual cycle, and many species have undergone severe population declines. Research during the non-breeding season has focused on identifying the locations and habitats that migrants use, but wintering migrants are known to occupy habitats of both high and low quality, especially when the best sites are saturated by conspecifics. Thus, the presence or abundance of a species may not be a reliable indicator of winter habitat quality. The habitat associations of the golden-winged warbler Vermivora chrysoptera, a Nearctic-Neotropical migrant bird species of elevated conservation concern, are relatively well studied, yet conservation efforts are hindered by lack of information about basic demographic rates. In particular, no published estimates exist for non-breeding season survival, which can be a key vital rate affecting population viability, nor how survival rates vary among habitats, which is important to designing conservation programs to support populations during the winter period. We studied a color-banded population of golden-winged warblers in Costa Rica over a 3-year period and estimated overall survival rates, and the effects of habitat characteristics on survival. We found that monthly survival of juveniles (0.881) was lower than adult birds (0.978). Monthly survival during the non-breeding season (0.967) was higher than monthly survival during the rest of the annual cycle (0.930). Survival was negatively related to canopy height, and we observed a significant quadratic effect where survival peaked at intermediate levels of vine tangles and dead hanging leaves, which corresponds to habitat features associated with abundance in prior studies at this same site. Our findings contribute to our existing knowledge about the potential impacts of winter-season events on Nearctic-Neotropical migratory bird populations, and also informs potential conservation strategies for wintering golden-winged warblers.

Usage notes

All models and data are included and should be placed in the same working file to then be used with the provided R code.  The program JAGS should also be installed on your computer.