Behavioral activities and breeding success of willow flycatchers in the Sierra Nevada
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Observing survival and how individuals allocate time can provide insight into a species' ability to tolerate environmental constraints. We studied the Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax trallii) in the Sierra Nevada to determine if there were behavioral differences between pairs that successfully produced offspring and those that did not. This information will advance understanding of why these birds are declining in the Sierra Nevada and contribute to recommendations that may help to conserve them. We studied birds in 13 meadows in 2000 and 2001 using continuous focal-animal observations. Of the 43 territories we observed, 11 were occupied by males who never paired with a female, leaving 32 pairs for analysis. Of the 32 pairs, 13 were successful at breeding on their 1st attempt, and 9 pairs failed at their initial try but were successful on their 2nd breeding attempt. Throughout the breeding season, Willow Flycatchers spent 77%-78% of the day loafing during territory establishment and nest building, and loafing reached a low of 49% of the time budget during the nestling stage. Unsuccessful pairs spent on average 34% more time perching than their successful counterparts, while successful pairs spent on average 48% more of their time on the nest than unsuccessful pairs. Willow Flycatchers doubled the time spent foraging during the nestling phase because they had to meet the daily intake requirements for their young and themselves. Our results suggest that birds that spent more time on the nest and less time vocalizing had a significantly higher probability of successfully producing young because they were able to protect nests from predators, nest parasites, and inclement weather.
Western North American Naturalist
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Soroka, D. E., & Morrison, M. L.
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