Assessing breeding success in common woodland birds using a novel method.
Capsule Repeated counts of fledged broods can provide a useful estimate of breeding success for most common woodland birds.
Aims To assess the efficacy of comparing fledged-brood survey data with territory mapping using simple mark-recapture analysis techniques to provide an estimate of breeding success for common woodland birds that does not involve finding nests.
Methods Three observers undertook territory mapping surveys of adults, followed by counts of fledged broods four times a week during May-July 2007 in two 15 ha woods each, both in southern England. Using known fledging to maturity periods, these counts were used to calculate daily detection probabilities for broods of ubiquitous species. These enabled fledged brood territory occupancy probabilities (i.e. brood to territory ratios) to be estimated that take account of the possibility that broods were present but missed by surveys.
Results Of the 19 species found in all six woods, mean daily detection probability estimates for fledged broods of 17 species ranged from 0.17 to 0.50 with significant variation between woods for 12 species, but within region/observer for four species. The mean probability of detecting a brood at least once was over 75% using four visits per week and over 50% using two visits. Only for Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major and Garden Warblers Sylvia borin was the fledging period too short and the daily detection probability too low to provide a reasonable estimate of the territory occupancy probability.
Conclusion Daily detection probabilities for fledged broods of most common woodland birds were sufficiently high to enable useable estimates of fledged-brood territory occupancy probabilities to be made based on a survey programme involving two or three visits per week between late May and the end of June. The method used may have application as a means of providing a relatively easily derived productivity index for woodland bird monitoring programmes or for research studies.