Pre-reproductive survival in a tropical bird and its implications for avian life histories

Corey E. Tarwater, Robert E. Ricklefs, J. Dylan Maddox, Jeffrey D. Brawn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The factors that affect survival until reproduction are essential to understanding the organization of life histories within and among species. Theory predicts, for example, that survival until reproduction influences the optimum level of reproductive investment by parents, which might partly explain prolonged parental care in species with high first-year survival. Tests and refinements of life-history theory have been hampered, however, by a lack of field-based estimates of pre-reproductive survival, especially for tropical species, which have been the subject of many comparative analyses. Tropical species are predicted to have higher first-year survival and delayed reproduction compared to Northern Hemisphere species. We estimated survival until reproduction, age at first reproduction, and sources of variation in juvenile survival in a Neotropical passerine, the Western Slaty-Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha), in central Panama. We observed that fledged antshrikes had 76% survival through the dependent period and 48% survival to the age of 1 year; survival rate was lowest during the first week after leaving the nest. Timing of fledging within the breeding season, fledgling mass, and age at dispersal influenced survival, while sex of offspring and year did not. Individuals did not breed until two years of age, and post-fledging pre-reproductive survival was 41% of annual adult survival. High survival until reproduction in antshrikes balanced their low annual productivity, resulting in a stable population. Survival during the post-fledging period of dependence and the first year of independence in the Western Slaty-Antshrike exceeded estimates for Northern Hemisphere species. This difference appears to be associated with the extended post-fledging parental care, delayed dispersal, low costs of dispersal, and the less seasonal environment of antshrikes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1271-1281
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Age at reproduction
  • First-year survival
  • Juvenile
  • Life histories
  • Post-fledging period
  • Reproductive investment
  • Survival
  • Thamnophilus atrinucha
  • Tropical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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