Date of Graduation

5-2017

Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Department or Program

Biology

First Advisor

Nathaniel Wheelwright

Abstract

Aerial insectivores have been declining across northeastern North America since the end of the 20th century. The mechanisms and demographic patterns of this decline are unclear. On Kent Island, New Brunswick, Canada, an isolated population of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) collapsed between 1987 and 2010. To explore how demographic rates (i.e., survival, reproduction, and immigration) drove the population dynamics of these northeastern aerial insectivores, we combined productivity, population survey, and capture-recapture data in an integrated population model analysis. Neither consistently low juvenile survival rates, adult survival rates, nor clutch size were correlated with population growth rate across years. Alternatively, male and female immigration, hatching success, and fledging success rates were correlated with population growth rate. Because local hatching and fledging success rates cannot influence a population without local recruitment, we argue that the demography of these Tree Swallows is mainly structured by immigration. Parameter-substitution simulations revealed that overall decline was likely even if the population had avoided the worst years of demographic collapse. Breeding Bird Survey comparisons demonstrated how the Kent Island population represents both a demographic and geographical extreme at the edge of a declining region. These demographic patterns highlight the sensitivity, even to the point of local extinction, of some isolated populations to region-scale patterns in the production of potential immigrants.

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