Factors Affecting Post-Fledging Survival in Passerine Birds and the Value of Post-Fledging Studies to Conservation

TitleFactors Affecting Post-Fledging Survival in Passerine Birds and the Value of Post-Fledging Studies to Conservation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsW. Cox, Andrew, Thompson Frank R., Cox Allison S., and Faaborg John
JournalThe Journal of Wildlife Management
Date Published01/2014
Keywordsdemography, juvenile, passerines, population modeling, post-fledging, songbird productivity, Survival

Conservation efforts are most effective when we have complete demographic information for a species of concern. Nevertheless, fundamental gaps in our knowledge of demography still exist for many taxa. For passerine birds, the period of time directly after young birds leave the nest and before they disperse and/or migrate (i.e., the post-fledging period) remains an understudied life stage. We reviewed the literature on survival of passerine birds during the post-fledging period to synthesize current knowledge on survival rates and the factors affecting these rates, and conducted a sensitivity analysis to explore the relationship between population growth and post-fledging survival across the range of rates reported in the literature. Fledgling age was a strong predictor of survival, with the highest mortality occurring during the first 3 weeks after birds fledged. Among species, survival ranged from 0.23 to 0.87 during the first 3 weeks post-fledging and increased with adult body mass and nestling period duration. The relatively high proportion (12 of 19; 63%) of studies that detected at least 1 habitat effect on survival indicates that management focused on post-fledging habitat can improve survival. Sensitivity analyses indicated that post-fledging survival rates less than approximately 0.4 require unrealistic overwinter survival rates of juveniles to prevent population decline, unless adult survival rates and seasonal fecundity are high. Post-fledging survival is a useful metric for monitoring passerine populations because it sets the ceiling on first-year survival, responds to habitat management, and leads to more comprehensive demographic models for songbirds. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.