The ornithological literature indicates a widespread belief in two generalizations about the age-specificity of avian survival rates: (1) survival rates of young birds for some period following fledging are lower than those of adults, and (2) after reaching adulthood survival rates are constant for birds of all ages. There is a growing body of evidence in support of the first generalization, although little is known about how long the survival difference between young and adults lasts. This latter question can be addressed with capture-recapture or band recovery studies based on birds marked in the winter, but the inability to determine age in many species during winter has prevented the use of standard methods. There is very little evidence supporting the second generalization, and we are in need of methods and actual analyses that address this question. In the present paper we restate the two generalizations as hypotheses and test them using data from a wintering Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus) population in Connecticut, which has been studied by Loery for 26 yr. We use a cohort-based Jolly-Seber approach, which should be useful in other investigations of this nature. We found strong evidence of lower survival rates in 1st-yr birds than in adults, but could not determine whether this was the result of higher mortality rates, higher emigration rates, or a combination of the two. We also found evidence that survival rates of adult birds were not constant with age but decreased at a rate of ? 3.5%/yr. As adult birds are very faithful to their wintering areas, we believe that almost all this decrease can be attributed to an increase in mortality with age. Simulation results suggest that heterogeneity of capture probabilities could not explain the magnitude of the decrease in survival with age. Age-dependent tag loss is also discussed as an alternative explanation, but is dismissed as very unlikely in this situation. This analysis thus provides some of the first evidence of declining adult survival probabilities with age for any bird species.
Additional Publication Details
Age-specificity of black-capped chickadee survival rates: Analysis of capture-recapture data