Spatial and temporal drivers of avian population dynamics across the annual cycle

Ecology. 2017 Nov;98(11):2837-2850. doi: 10.1002/ecy.1967. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


Untangling the spatial and temporal processes that influence population dynamics of migratory species is challenging, because changes in abundance are shaped by variation in vital rates across heterogeneous habitats and throughout the annual cycle. We developed a full-annual-cycle, integrated, population model and used demographic data collected between 2011 and 2014 in southern Indiana and Belize to estimate stage-specific vital rates of a declining migratory songbird, the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). Our primary objective was to understand how spatial and temporal variation in demography contributes to local and regional population growth. Our full-annual-cycle model allowed us to estimate (1) age-specific, seasonal survival probabilities, including latent survival during both spring and autumn migration, and (2) how the relative contribution of vital rates to population growth differed among habitats. Wood Thrushes in our study populations experienced the lowest apparent survival rates during migration and apparent survival was lower during spring migration than during fall migration. Both mortality and high dispersal likely contributed to low apparent survival during spring migration. Population growth in high-quality habitat was most sensitive to variation in fecundity and apparent survival of juveniles during spring migration, whereas population growth in low-quality sites was most sensitive to adult apparent breeding-season survival. These results elucidate how full-annual-cycle vital rates, particularly apparent survival during migration, interact with spatial variation in habitat quality to influence population dynamics in migratory species.

Keywords: Wood Thrush; full annual cycle; integrated population model; migration; population dynamics; population limitation.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Belize
  • Indiana
  • Population Dynamics
  • Seasons
  • Songbirds*