Grüebler, M. U., F. Korner-Nievergelt & B. Naef-Daenzer (2014)

Equal nonbreeding period survival in adults and juveniles of a long-distant migrant bird.

Further information

Ecol. Evol. 4 (6): 756–765





In migrant birds, survival estimates for the different life-history stages between fledging and first breeding are scarce. First-year survival is shown to be strongly reduced compared with annual survival of adult birds. However, it remains unclear whether the main bottleneck in juvenile long-distant migrants occurs in the postfledging period within the breeding ranges or en route. Quantifying survival rates during different life-history stages and during different periods of the migration cycle is crucial to understand forces driving the evolution of optimal life histories in migrant birds. Here, we estimate survival rates of adult and juvenile barn swallows (Hirundo rustica L.) in the breeding and nonbreeding areas using a population model integrating survival estimates in the breeding ranges based on a large radio-telemetry data set and published estimates of demographic parameters from large-scale population-monitoring projects across Switzerland. Input parameters included the country-wide population trend, annual productivity estimates of the double-brooded species, and year-to-year survival corrected for breeding dispersal. Juvenile survival in the 3-week postfledging period was low (S = 0.32; SE = 0.05), whereas in the rest of the annual cycle survival estimates of adults and juveniles were similarly high (S > 0.957). Thus, the postfledging period was the main survival bottleneck, revealing the striking result that nonbreeding period mortality (including migration) is not higher for juveniles than for adult birds. Therefore, focusing future research on sources of variation in postfledging mortality can provide new insights into determinants of population dynamics and life-history evolution of migrant birds.
Keywords: Avian demography, bird migration, Hirundo rustica, life-history stages, population ecology, postfledging survival