Redefining reproductive success in songbirds: Moving beyond the nest success paradigm

The Auk
By: , and 



One of the most commonly estimated parameters in studies of songbird ecology is reproductive success, as a measure of either individual fitness or population productivity. Traditionally, the “success” in reproductive success refers to whether, or how many, nestlings leave nests. Here, we advocate that “reproductive success” in songbirds be redefined as full-season productivity, or the number of young raised to independence from adult care in a breeding season. A growing body of evidence demonstrates interdependence between nest success and fledgling survival, and emphasizes that data from either life stage alone can produce misleading measures of individual fitness and population productivity. Nest success, therefore, is an insufficient measure of reproductive success, and songbird ecology needs to progress beyond this long-standing paradigm. Full-season productivity, an evolutionarily rational measure of reproductive success, provides the framework for appropriately addressing unresolved questions about the adaptive significance of many breeding behaviors and within which effective breeding-grounds conservation and management can be designed.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Redefining reproductive success in songbirds: Moving beyond the nest success paradigm
Series title The Auk
DOI 10.1642/AUK-14-69.1
Volume 131
Issue 4
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher American Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 9 p.
First page 718
Last page 726
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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