Breeding Biology of Swainson's Warblers in a Managed South Carolina Bottomland Forest

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Title: Breeding Biology of Swainson's Warblers in a Managed South Carolina Bottomland Forest
Author: Thompson, Jennifer Laurie
Advisors: Richard A. Lancia, Committee Chair
Kenneth H. Pollock, Committee Member
Heather M. Cheshire, Committee Member
Phillip D. Doerr, Committee Member
Abstract: Conservation plans for the southeastern U.S. have identified Swainson's Warblers (Limnothlypis swainsonii) to be among the more vulnerable Neotropical migrants. However, a lack of life history information, in particular breeding, jeopardizes sound management decisions. My study examined a population in Britton's Neck, South Carolina on timberland owned by International Paper Co. From 1999-2001, I conducted a breeding biology study that examined nesting, territory, vegetative, and landscape characteristics. I discovered 98 SWWA nests, 63 of which were active. SWWA nesting success equaled 60% using the Mayfield success estimator. Contrary to the notion of SWWA requiring mature forests to breed, SWWA bred successfully in 20-year old regenerating clearcuts. Multiple brooding, where a pair initiates nesting attempts after their first is successful, was detected in 20% of the pairs. An individual's seasonal fecundity was doubled by multiple brooding, increasing the young per female from 1.5 to 3.7. Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) parasitized only 10% of nests. No SWWA chicks were observed fledging in the presence of Cowbirds. Apparent population density was 17 territories/km2, equaling the highest density ever recorded for SWWA. One-fifth the site contained 59 territories/km2, compared to the remaining four-fifths with 12 territories/km2. I examined vegetative differences between nests built in high- versus low-density areas using a discriminant function analysis (DFA). The DFA results indicated understory thickets accounted for the largest difference between high- and low-density nest sites. Nests in the high-density area were more associated with understory thickets.
Date: 2005-07-22
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Zoology

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