Effective habitat management requires understanding habitat needs across a species' life history stages. In songbirds, management of breeding habitat is generally focused on the pre-nesting and nesting stages, while habitat use during the critical post-fledging stage remains understudied and is seldom a target for management. In 2014 and 2015, we documented post-fledging habitat use of Dickcissels (Spiza americana) in central Illinois, USA. We examined vegetation characteristics used by fledglings and how fledgling survival varied with habitat use. We also compared fledgling habitat use to nesting site habitat. Fledgling Dickcissels used areas with vegetation that was overall denser and more concealed than at random locations. Fledglings preferentially selected dense vegetation after fledging (days 1-3 postfledging), and then used even denser vegetation once they became more mobile (days 4-11 post-fledging). Fledglings that used comparatively denser habitat were more likely to survive the critical part of the post-fledgling period (days 0-3 post-fledging), but not during subsequent parts of the post-fledging period (.3 days post-fledging). Habitat characteristics preferred by fledglings did not differ from those preferred by females for nest sites. Our results suggest that dense vegetation is needed for fledglings until they develop adequate mobility to evade predators. Furthermore, our finding of a positive association between fledgling survival and denser habitat during, but not after, the critical part (days 0-3) of the post-fledging period identifies an important window for management to increase fledgling survival. Management for dense habitat, however, must be appropriately timed not to disturb adults, nests, and young, immobile fledglings.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology