We collected data on 212 wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) nests in central New York from 1998 to 2000 to determine the factors that most strongly influence nest success. We used an information-theoretic approach to assess and rank 9 models that examined the relationship between nest success (i.e., the probability that a nest would successfully fledge at least 1 wood thrush offspring) and habitat conditions at different spatial scales. We found that 4 variables were significant predictors of nesting success for wood thrushes: (1) total core habitat within 5 km of a study site, (2) distance to forest-field edge, (3) total forest cover within 5 km of the study site, and (4) density and variation in diameter of trees and shrubs surrounding the nest. The coefficients of these predictors were all positive. Of the 9 models evaluated, amount of core habitat in the 5-km landscape was the best-fit model, but the vegetation structure model (i.e., the density of trees and stems surrounding a nest) was also supported by the data. Based on AIC weights, enhancement of core area is likely to be a more effective management option than any other habitat-management options explored in this study. Bootstrap analysis generally confirmed these results; core and vegetation structure models were ranked 1, 2, or 3 in over 50% of 1,000 bootstrap trials. However, bootstrap results did not point to a decisive model, which suggests that multiple habitat factors are influencing wood thrush nesting success. Due to model uncertainty, we used a model averaging approach to predict the success or failure of each nest in our dataset. This averaged model was able to correctly predict 61.1% of nest outcomes.
Additional publication details
Determinants of wood thrush nest success: A multi-scale, model selection approach