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An evaluation and comparison of conservation guidelines for an at-risk migratory songbird

McNeil, Darin J., Aldinger, Kyle R., Bakermans, Marja H., Lehman, Justin A., Tisdale, Anna C., Jones, John A., Wood, Petra B., Buehler, David A., Smalling, Curtis G., Siefferman, Lynn, Larkin, Jeffery L.
Global ecology and conservation 2017 v.9 pp. 90-103
Neotropics, Rubus, USDA, Vermivora chrysoptera, adaptive management, breeding season, clutch size, conservation practices, fledglings, guidelines, habitat conservation, habitats, migratory birds, nesting, nesting sites, population dynamics, private lands, shrubs, vegetation, wildlife, Eastern United States
For at-risk wildlife species, it is important to consider conservation within the process of adaptive management. Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) are Neotropical migratory songbirds that are experiencing long-term population declines due in part to the loss of early-successional nesting habitat. Recently-developed Golden-winged Warbler habitat management guidelines are being implemented by USDA: Natural Resource Conservation Service (2014) and its partners through the Working Lands For Wildlife (WLFW) program. During 2012–2014, we studied the nesting ecology of Golden-winged Warblers in managed habitats of the eastern US that conformed to WLFW conservation practices. We evaluated five NRCS “management scenarios” with respect to nesting success and attainment of recommended nest site vegetation conditions outlined in the Golden-winged Warbler breeding habitat guidelines. Using estimates of territory density, pairing rate, nest survival, and clutch size, we also estimated fledgling productivity (number of fledglings/ha) for each management scenario. In general, Golden-winged Warbler nest survival declined as each breeding season advanced, but nest survival was similar across management scenarios. Within each management scenario, vegetation variables had little influence on nest survival. Still, percent Rubus cover and density of >2 m tall shrubs were relevant in some management scenarios. All five management scenarios rarely attained recommended levels of nest site vegetation conditions for Golden-winged, yet nest survival was high. Fledgling productivity estimates for each management scenario ranged from 2.1 to 8.6 fledglings/10 hectares. Our results indicate that targeted habitat management for Golden-winged Warblers using a variety of management techniques on private lands has the capability to yield high nest survival and fledgling productivity, and thus have the potential to contribute to the species recovery.