Monitoring breeding and migration of neotropical migratory birds at Point Loma, San Diego County, California, 5-year summary, 2011–15

Open-File Report 2017-1042
Prepared in cooperation with Commander, Navy Region Southwest
By: , and 

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Executive Summary

We operated a bird banding station on the Point Loma peninsula in western San Diego County, California, during spring and summer from 2011 to 2015. The station was established in 2010 as part of a long-term monitoring program for neotropical migratory birds during spring migration and for breeding birds as part of the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program.

During spring migration (April and May), 2011–15, we captured 1,760 individual birds of 54 species, 91 percent (1,595) of which were newly banded, fewer than 1 percent (3) of which were recaptures that were banded in previous years, and 9 percent (143 hummingbirds, 2 hawks, and 17 other birds) of which we released unbanded. We observed an additional 22 species that were not captured. Thirty-four individuals were captured more than once. Bird capture rate averaged 0.49 ± 0.07 captures per net-hour (range 0.41–0.56). Species richness per day averaged 6.87 ± 0.33. Cardellina pusilla (Wilson’s warbler) was the most abundant spring migrant captured, followed by Empidonax difficilis (Pacific-slope flycatcher), Vireo gilvus (warbling vireo), Zonotrichia leucophrys (white-crowned sparrow), and Selasphorus rufus (rufous hummingbird). Captures of white-crowned sparrow decreased, and captures of Pacific-slope flycatcher increased, over the 5 years of our study. Fifty-six percent of known-sex individuals were male and 44 percent were female. The peak number of new species arriving per day ranged from April 1 (2013-six species) to April 16 (2012-five species). A significant correlation was determined between the number of migrants captured each day per net-hour and the density of echoes on the Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) images across all 5 years, and in each year except 2014. NEXRAD radar imagery appears to be a useful tool for detecting pulses in migration.

Our results indicate that Point Loma provides stopover habitat during migration for 76 migratory species, including 20 species of conservation concern. Two of these species, Vireo bellii pusillus (least Bell’s vireo) and Empidonax traillii (willow flycatcher) are listed as State and (or) federally threatened or endangered.

Except for Archilochus alexandri (black-chinned hummingbird) and Setophaga occidentalis (hermit warbler), which arrived later during the migratory season in latter years of our study, median arrival dates for migratory species tended to be earlier each year or did not change across 5 years. Of the five most common migratory species, white-crowned sparrow and rufous hummingbird arrived earlier in latter years of the study, but Pacific-slope flycatcher, warbling vireo, and Wilson’s warbler median arrival dates were variable and showed no trend.

We captured 1,680 individuals of 66 species during the MAPS/breeding season (May through August) across the 5 years of our study, 72 percent (1,211) of which were newly banded, 10 percent (167) of which were recaptures, and 18 percent (302 hummingbirds and other birds that escaped prior to banding) of which we released unbanded. Bird capture rate averaged 0.65 ± 0.21 captures per net-hour (range 0.12–2.54). Species richness per day ranged from 9.80 ± 5.01 to 14.20 ± 4.57. Calypte anna (Anna’s hummingbird) was the most abundant breeding species captured, followed by Oreothlypis celata (orange-crowned warbler), Psaltriparus minimus (bushtit), Pipilo maculatus (spotted towhee), Thryomanes bewickii (Bewick’s wren), Melozone crissalis (California towhee), and Chamaea fasciata (wrentit). Fifty-one percent of known-sex captures were female, and 49 percent were male. Thirty-one percent of known-age captures were juveniles.

Populations of bushtits and orange-crowned warbler decreased significantly over 5 years. Anna’s hummingbird abundance was high for 4 years, and then decreased in 2015. Bewick’s wren and wrentit populations were highest in 2015. There was no obvious pattern in spotted towhee and California towhee abundance across 5 years. Annual breeding productivity for most species was low in 2014 and high in 2015. Bewick’s wren had the highest breeding productivity of the six most commonly captured species, followed by bushtit. Orange-crowned warbler had the lowest breeding productivity. Breeding productivity was a significant predictor of population size the next year for bushtit, but not for any other resident breeding species examined.

Adult survivorship was generally high from 2013 to 14, and low from 2014 to 15. Wrentits had the highest survivorship of the most common species captured, followed by California towhee and orange-crowned warbler. Adult survivorship was lowest for bushtits and spotted towhees. Adult survivorship was a significant predictor of population size for bushtits, but not for any other resident species examined.

Our monitoring results indicate that Point Loma provides breeding habitat for seven species of conservation concern. One of these species, the federally threatened Polioptila californica californica (California gnatcatcher), was documented breeding at the study site.

Suggested Citation

Lynn, Suellen, Madden, M.C., and Kus, B.E., 2017, Monitoring breeding and migration of neotropical migratory birds at Point Loma, San Diego County, California, 5-year summary, 2011–15: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017-1042, 119 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20171042.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Management Implications
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes A–C

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Monitoring breeding and migration of neotropical migratory birds at Point Loma, San Diego County, California, 5-year summary, 2011–15
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2017-1042
DOI 10.3133/ofr20171042
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description iv, 119 p.
Country United States
State California
County San Diego County
Other Geospatial Point Loma
Online Only (Y/N) Y