Postfledging survival and movement in Dickcissels (Spiza americana): Implications for habitat management and conservation

Lorelle I. Berkeley, John P. McCarty, La Reesa Wolfenbarger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


When land managers incorporate the habitat needs of grassland birds into their planning, they typically rely on management recommendations based on habitat use by adults during nesting. Habitat requirements for other critical life stages are seldom known and may differ from those of nesting adults. Using radiotelemetry, we examined survival and habitat use by juvenile Dickcissels (Spiza americana) during the postfledging period. In 2003 and 2004, we monitored 60 fledgling Dickcissels for ≤30 days after they left the nest. Mortality rates were highest during the first week after leaving the nest, and only 33% of the fledglings survived the first four weeks after leaving the nest. Estimated mean survival times were 16.9 ± 1.6 days after birds left the nest. In both years, fledgling survival was positively associated with dense vertical and horizontal structure of forbs at nests. Survival tended to be positively associated with vertical grass density on adult territories and negatively associated with patchily distributed forbs on adult territories. Fledgling habitat use was restricted to areas where Dickcissels nested and adjacent fields. Habitats used included corn and soybean fields, grasslands, and wetlands. Our results suggest that the fledgling period is a critical stage for Dickcissels and that fledglings require habitat similar to habitat used for nesting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-409
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Agriculture
  • Dickcissel
  • Fledgling stage
  • Grassland birds
  • Habitat use
  • Radiotelemetry
  • Spiza americana
  • Survival analysis
  • Tallgrass prairie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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