Survival of postfledging grassland birds in Missouri

Kimberly M. Suedkamp Wells, Mark Russell Ryan, Joshua J. Millspaugh, Frank R. Thompson, Michael W. Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe survival patterns during the postfledging period for two species of grassland birds in Missouri. We monitored 155 radio-marked juvenile Dickcissels (Spiza americana) and 107 juvenile Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna; hereafter meadowlark) in southwestern Missouri, from 2002 to 2004. We used an information theoretic approach to evaluate support for biological, temporal, and spatial covariates on survival estimates using Cox proportional hazards models, and also identified cause-specific mortality. For Dickcissels, the model with biological covariates containing body mass had the lowest score using Akaike's information criterion, corrected for small sample sizes (AIC c) and almost twice the support of the second-best model. For meadowlarks, the null model had the lowest AICc score, but the second-best model containing body mass was also competitive (within 2 AIC c units), so we used the latter model for inference. Hazard ratios indicated that a 1 g increase in body mass was associated with a 3% (Dickcissels) and 2% (meadowlarks) reduction in the risk of death. The cumulative probability of surviving the study period (Dickcissels, 58 days, meadowlarks, 72 days) was 0.56 (95% CI: 049-0.65) for Dickcissels and 0.63 (95% CI: 0.54-0.74) for meadowlarks. Predation was the largest source of cause-specific mortality for both species and responsible for 56% (Dickcissels) and 70% (meadowlarks) of deaths. Snakes were the numerically dominant predator of juvenile Dickcissels, but there was not a numerically dominant predator of juvenile meadowlarks. Our results emphasize the importance of body condition on postfledging survival. Future studies should consider estimating postfledging survival rates within species across systems to understand the potential impacts of different predator communities on juvenile survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-794
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cause-specific mortality
  • Dickcissel
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Grassland birds
  • Juvenile survival
  • Postfledging
  • Snakes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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