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Spotted Towhee population dynamics in a riparian restoration context

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Small, Stacy L.; Thompson, Frank R., III; Geupel, Geoffery R.; Faaborg, John

Year Published



The Condor. 109: 721-733.


We investigated factors at multiple scales that might influence nest predation risk for Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculates) along the Sacramento River, California, within the context of large-scale riparian habitat restoration. We used the logistic-exposure method and Akaike's information criterion (AIC) for model selection to compare predator search, predator abundance, restoration, and temporal effects hypotheses. Our candidate models represented restoration, temporal, nest activity, nest concealment, agriculture, and flood effects. Restoration sites did function as breeding habitat, with nest survival comparable to mature forest sites and some young being produced. The best-supported models contained the covariates cowbird young in host nest and calendar date. All supported models contained the covariate cowbird young, the only variable with a strong effect. In contrast to our prediction, nest survival increased with cowbird young in the nest, implicating adult cowbirds in nest predation events. Nest survival declined throughout the breeding season and increased marginally with nest concealment. We calculated the finite rate of population increase (A), using a model that incorporated nest success estimates for parasitized and unparasitized nests, double brooding, the locally observed cowbird parasitism rate for Spotted Towhees, number of young fledged from successful parasitized and unparasitized nests, adult survival and a range of juvenile survival values, estimated as percentages of adult survival. Values of A did not approach the replacement level of one, indicating that this population is not self-sustaining. We recommend extensive habitat restoration in the floodplain landscape, ideally in conjunction with cowbird control, to reduce nest predation and parasitism pressures.


Small, Stacy L.; Thompson, Frank R., III; Geupel, Geoffery R.; Faaborg, John. 2007. Spotted Towhee population dynamics in a riparian restoration context. The Condor. 109: 721-733.

Last updated on: November 16, 2008