Comparative demographic studies of terrestrial vertebrates have included few samples of species from tropical forests. We analyzed 9 yr of mark-recapture data and estimated demographic parameters for 25 species of birds inhabiting lowland forests in central Panama. These species were all songbirds (Order Passeriformes) ranging in mass from 7 to 57 g. Using Jolly-Seber stochastic models for open populations, we estimated annual survival rate, population size, and recruitment between sampling periods for each species. We then explored relationships between these parameters and attributes such as body size, phylogenetic affiliation, foraging guild, and social behavior. Larger birds had comparatively long life-spans and low recruitment, but body size was not associated with population size. After adjusting for effects of body size, we found no association between phylogenetic affiliation and any demographic trait. Ecological attributes, especially foraging guild, were more clearly associated with interspecific variation in all demographic traits. Ant-followers had comparatively long life-spans, but species that participate in flocks did not live longer than solitary species. The allometric associations we observed were consistent with those demonstrated in other studies of vertebrates; thus. these relationships appear to be robust. Our finding that ecological factors were more influential than phylogenetic affiliation contrasts with comparative studies of temperate-zone birds and suggests that the relative importance of environmental vs. historical factors varies geographically.
Additional publication details
Demography of birds in a neotropical forest: Effects of allometry, taxonomy, and ecology