In summary, in our study (1) capture rates (number of HY birds/number of AHY birds) were not useful as a direct measure of productivity in Kirtland's Warblers because HY birds were about 1.7 times more likely than AHY birds to be captured in mist nets; (2) capture rates varied substantially among sites, presumably because of changes in habitat that affected movements during late summer (thus, capture rates at a single site did not provide a useful index to population-wide productivity); and (3) population-wide capture rates provided useful indices to population-wide productivity. As noted previously, the first two conclusions are already accepted by specialists in the use of mist netting to index productivity. Our study presents the first evidence that annual variation in relative capture rates is sufficiently small that mist netting at multiple sites in a region can provide a useful index to region-wide productivity. The region must be large relative to late-summer movements by the study species, which means that obtaining habitat-specific productivity rates will be possible only within large patches of habitat. It should also be recognized that many species will move much farther than Kirtland's Warblers (owing to their limited breeding distribution). Our results suggest that mist-netting programs like MAPS and the Constant Effort Sites used in Britain can provide useful measures of temporal patterns, large-scale spatial patterns, and year-specific patterns in avian productivity. Furthermore, unlike most nest-monitoring studies, mist netting in late summer measures season-long productivity, the quantity of greatest use in most demographic analyses. Late-summer mist netting thus appears to be a useful method for studying avian productivity provided that investigators realize that results from at least six to eight sites that are well distributed across a large region must be combined to obtain a valid index, and that results obtained in this manner describe relative region-wide productivity, not absolute or local productivity.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of mist-net sampling as an index to productivity in Kirtland's Warblers