We estimated survival rates of Swainson's Thrush, a common, neotropical, migratory landbird, at multiple spatial scales, using data collected in the western USA from the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Programme. We evaluated statistical power to detect spatially heterogeneous survival rates and exponentially declining survival rates among spatial scales with simulated populations parameterized from results of the Swainson's Thrush analyses. Models describing survival rates as constant across large spatial scales did not fit the data. The model we chose as most appropriate to describe survival rates of Swainson's Thrush allowed survival rates to vary among Physiographic Provinces, included a separate parameter for the probability that a newly captured bird is a resident individual in the study population, and constrained capture probability to be constant across all stations. Estimated annual survival rates under this model varied from 0.42 to 0.75 among Provinces. The coefficient of variation of survival estimates ranged from 5.8 to 20% among Physiographic Provinces. Statistical power to detect exponentially declining trends was fairly low for small spatial scales, although large annual declines (3% of previous year's rate) were likely to be detected when monitoring was conducted for long periods of time (e.g. 20 years). Although our simulations and field results are based on only four years of data from a limited number and distribution of stations, it is likely that they illustrate genuine difficulties inherent to broadscale efforts to monitor survival rates of territorial landbirds. In particular, our results suggest that more attention needs to be paid to sampling schemes of monitoring programmes, particularly regarding the trade-off between precision and potential bias of parameter estimates at varying spatial scales.
Additional publication details
Monitoring survival rates of Swainson's Thrush Catharus ustulatus at multiple spatial scales