The proportion of animals in a population that breeds is an important determinant of population growth rate. Usual estimates of this quantity from field sampling data assume that the probability of appearing in the capture or count statistic is the same for animals that do and do not breed. A similar assumption is required by most existing methods used to test ecologically interesting hypotheses about reproductive costs using field sampling data. However, in many field sampling situations breeding and nonbreeding animals are likely to exhibit different probabilities of being seen or caught. In this paper, we propose the use of multistate capturerecapture models for these estimation and testing problems. This methodology permits a formal test of the hypothesis of equal capture/sighting probabilities for breeding and nonbreeding individuals. Two estimators of breeding proportion (and associated standard errors) are presented, one for the case of equal capture probabilities and one for the case of unequal capture probabilities. The multistate modeling framework also yields formal tests of hypotheses about reproductive costs to future reproducton or survival or both fitness components. The general methodology is illustrated using capture-recapture data on female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus. Resulting estimates of the proportion of reproductively active females showed strong seasonal variation, as expected, with low breeding proportions in midwinter. We found no evidence of reproductive costs extracted in subsequent survival or reproduction. We believe that this methodological framework has wide application to problems in animal ecology concerning breeding proportions and phenotypic reproductive costs.
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Sixty-seventh Christmas Bird Count. 246. Ocean City, Md