Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats

Research paper by Anne L. Balogh, Thomas B. Ryder, Peter P. Marra

Indexed on: 23 Jan '11Published on: 23 Jan '11Published in: Journal für Ornithologie


Understanding factors that limit the productivity and survival of birds in rapidly changing human-dominated landscapes are key to managing future population persistence. To date, few studies have quantified both nest success and post-fledging survival for birds breeding within the suburban matrix. Here, we estimated nest success and juvenile post-fledging survival for Gray Catbirds (Dumatella carolinensis) and used those site-specific parameters to model source–sink dynamics at three sites in suburban Washington DC (USA). Cumulative nest success probability varied substantially among suburban sites and indicated that in some cases suburban habitats may provide suitable breeding sites for passerine birds. In addition, we documented the effects of sex and brood size on post-fledging survival rates and determined the role of predation on dispersing fledglings. Like nest success, estimates of post-fledging juvenile survival also varied among sites and highlight the importance of site-specific demographic estimates in urban habitats. Predation accounted for 79% of all mortalities, with 47% of known predation events attributable to domestic cats (Felis catus). Our models of source–sink dynamics underscore the importance of seasonal recruitment parameters for calculating population growth rate and subsequent persistence. This study provides parameter estimates for two critical life history stages in the avian annual cycle in the suburban matrix and posits that predation drives differential nest and post-fledging survival within human-dominated environments.