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Estimates of annual survival rates for a multispecies sample of neotropical birds from Panama have proven controversial. Traditionally, tropical birds were thought to have high survival rates for their size, but analyses by Kart et al. (1990. Am. Nat. 136:277-91) contradicted that view, suggesting tropical birds may not have systematically high survival rates. A persistent criticism of that study has been that the estimates were biased by transient birds captured only once as they passed through the area being sampled. New models that formally adjust for transient individuals have been developed since 1990. Preliminary analyses using these models indicate that, despite some variation among species, overall estimates of survival rates for understory birds in Panama are not strongly affected by adjustments for transients. We also compare estimates of survival rates based on mark-recapture models with observations of colour-marked birds. The demographic traits of birds in the tropics (and elsewhere) vary within and among species according to combinations of historical and ongoing ecological factors. Understanding sources of this variation is the challenge for future work.
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Demography of forest birds in Panama: How do transients affect estimates of survival rates?