Habitat and landscape effects on brood parasitism, nest survival, and fledgling production in Swainson's Warblers

Thomas J. Benson, Nicholas M. Anich, Jeremy D. Brown, James C. Bednarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous factors, including nest predation and brood parasitism, may limit populations of neotropical migratory birds. However, nest predation and brood parasitism are not constant, and temporal, biological, habitat, and landscape factors can affect the likelihood of these events. Understanding these patterns is important for species of conservation concern for which managers seek to provide quality habitat. One such species, the Swainson's warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii), is a neotropical migrant that breeds primarily in bottomland hardwood forests of the southeastern United States. Little is known of factors influencing reproductive success of this rare, yet locally abundant, species. From 2004 through 2007, we examined factors influencing reproductive success of Swainson's warblers at 2 sites in eastern Arkansas, USA, St. Francis National Forest and White River National Wildlife Refuge. We used 2-stage modeling to assess the relationship between 1) temporal and biological, and 2) habitat and landscape factors and brood parasitism, nest survival, and fledgling production. Brood parasitism was greater in this population (36%) than reported elsewhere (≤10%), but decreased throughout the breeding season. Nest survival was comparable to or lower than in other populations of this species and increased throughout the breeding season. The probability of brood parasitism was greater near forest edges. Although nests of Swainson's warblers were often associated with giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea), nest survival had a weak negative association with cane density. For nests that were successful, the best predictor of number of Swainson's warblers fledged was brood-parasitism status: nonparasitized nests fledged 2.75 young, whereas parasitized nests fledged 0.60 Swainson's warblers. Our findings suggest that managing and restoring relatively high-elevation bottomland forests that are located far from agricultural edges should increase Swainson's warbler productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-93
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2010


  • Arundinaria gigantea
  • Brood parasitism
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Fledgling production
  • Habitat
  • Landscape
  • Limnothlypis swainsonii
  • Molothrus ater
  • Nest survival
  • Swainson's warbler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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