We modeled postfledging survival and age-specific breeding probabilities in endangered Roseate Terns (Sterna dougallii) at Falkner Island, Connecticut, USA using capture-recapture data from 1988-1998 of birds ringed as chicks and as adults. While no individuals bred as 2-yr-olds during this period, about three-quarters of the young that survived and returned as 3-yr-olds nested, and virtually all surviving birds had begun breeding by the time they reached 5 years of age. We found no evidence of temporal variation in age of first breeding of birds from different cohorts. There was significant temporal variation in the annual survival of adults and the survival over the typical 3-yr maturation period of prebreeding birds, with extremely low values for both groups from the 1991 breeding season. The estimated overwinter survival rate (0.62) for adults from 1991-1992 was about three-quarters the usual rate of about 0.83, but the low survival of fledglings from 1991 resulted in less than 25% of the otherwise expected number of young from that cohort returning as breeding birds; this suggests that fledglings suffered a greater proportional decrease in survival than did adults. The survival estimates of young from 1989 and 1990 show that these cohorts were not negatively influenced by the events that decimated the young from 1991, and the young from 1992 and 1993 had above-average survival estimates. The apparent decrease since 1996 in development of fidelity of new recruits to this site is suspected due mainly to nocturnal disturbance and predation of chicks causing low productivity.
Additional publication details
Modelling postfledging survival and age-specific breeding probabilities in species with delayed maturity: a case study of Roseate Terns at Falkner Island, Connecticut