Accurate estimates of the age composition of populations can inform past reproductive success and future population trajectories. We examined fall age ratios (juveniles:total birds) of black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans; brant) staging at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge near the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, southwest Alaska, USA, 1963 to 2015. We also investigated variation in fall age ratios associated with sampling location, an index of flock size, survey effort, day of season, observer, survey platform (boat‐ or land‐based) and tide stage. We analyzed data using logistic regression models implemented in a Bayesian framework. Mean predicted fall age ratio controlling for survey effort, day of year, and temporal and spatial variation was 0.24 (95% CL = 0.23, 0.25). Overall trend in age ratios was −0.6% per year (95% CL = −1.3%, 0.2%), resulting in an approximate 26% decline in the proportion of juveniles over the study period. We found evidence for variation across a range of variables implying that juveniles are not randomly distributed in space and time within Izembek Lagoon. Age ratios varied by location within the study area and were highly variable among years. They decreased with the number of birds aged (an index of flock size) and increased throughout September before leveling off in early October and declining in late October. Age ratios were similar among tide stages and observers and were lower during boat‐based (offshore) than land‐based (nearshore) surveys. Our results indicate surveys should be conducted annually during early to mid‐October to ensure the entire population is present and available for sampling, and throughout Izembek Lagoon to account for spatiotemporal variation in age ratios. Sampling should include a wide range of flock sizes representative of their distribution and occur in flocks located near and off shore. Further research evaluating the cause of declining age ratios in the fall population is necessary to inform management and predict long‐term population dynamics of brant.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Long‐term trends in fall age ratios of black brant|
|Series title||Journal of Wildlife Management|
|Contributing office(s)||Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB|