We developed an extension of Cormack-Jolly-Seber models to handle a complex mark-recapture problem in which (a) the sex of birds cannot be determined prior to first moult, but can be predicted on the basis of body measurements, and (b) a significant portion of captured birds appear to be transients (i.e. are captured once but leave the area or otherwise become 'untrappable'). We applied this methodology to a data set of 4184 serins (Serinus serinus) trapped in northeastern Spain during 1985-96, in order to investigate age-, sex-, and time-specific variation in survival rates. Using this approach, we were able to successfully incorporate the majority of ringings of serins. Had we eliminated birds not previously captured (as has been advocated to avoid the problem of transience) we would have reduced our sample sizes by >2000 releases. In addition, we were able to include 1610 releases of birds of unknown (but predicted) sex; these data contributed to the precision of our estimates and the power of statistical tests. We discuss problems with data structure, encoding of the algorithms to compute parameter estimates, model selection, identifiability of parameters, and goodness-of-fit, and make recommendations for the design and analysis of future studies facing similar problems.
Additional publication details
Development and application of a mark-recapture model incorporating predicted sex and transitory behaviour