The effects of force-fledging and premature fledging on the survival of nestling songbirds

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Despite the broad consensus that force-fledging of nestling songbirds lowers their probability of survival and therefore should be generally avoided by researchers, that presumption has not been tested. We used radiotelemetry to monitor the survival of fledglings of OvenbirdsSeiurus aurocapilla and Golden-winged Warblers Vermivora chrysoptera that we unintentionally force-fledged (i.e. nestlings left the nest in response to our research activities at typical fledging age), that fledged prematurely (i.e. nestlings left the nest earlier than typical fledging age), and that fledged independently of our activities. Force-fledged Ovenbirds experienced significantly higher survival than those that fledged independent of our activities, and prematurely fledged Ovenbirds had a similarly high survival to those that force-fledged at typical fledging age. We observed a similar, though not statistically significant, pattern in Golden-winged Warbler fledgling survival. Our results suggest that investigator-induced force-fledging of nestlings, even when deemed premature, does not necessarily result in reduced fledgling survival in these species. Instead, our results suggest that a propensity or ability to fledge in response to disturbance may be a predictor of a higher probability of fledgling survival.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The effects of force-fledging and premature fledging on the survival of nestling songbirds
Series title Ibis
DOI 10.1111/ibi.12051
Volume 155
Issue 3
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher British Ornithologists' Union
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 5 p.
First page 616
Last page 620
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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