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Bayesian hierarchical model assessment of nest site and landscape effects on nest survival of aplomado falcons

Authors

  • Jessi L. Brown,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science and Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Graduate Program, University of Nevada, Reno, 1664 N. Virginia Street, MS 0186, Reno, NV 89557, USA
    • Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science and Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Graduate Program, University of Nevada, Reno, 1664 N. Virginia Street, MS 0186, Reno, NV 89557, USA
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  • Michael W. Collopy

    1. Academy for the Environment, University of Nevada, Reno, 202 Ross Hall, Reno, NV 89557, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Marc Bechard

Abstract

We investigated potential effects of nest site and landscape scale factors, including anthropogenic disturbance and habitat patchiness, on the nesting success of a reintroduced population of northern aplomado falcons (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) in southern Texas. We monitored 62 nesting attempts during 2002–2004 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We developed hierarchical models describing daily nest survival rates (DSR) and compared the models using a Bayesian approach in R and WinBUGS. We considered possible effects of nest age, temporal trends, nest site variables, landscape structure, territory (a random effect), and 3 measures of anthropogenic disturbance: distance to paved road, proximity to power pole, and nocturnal light intensity. Whether evaluated by Deviance Information Criterion (DIC) scores or the models' overall posterior probabilities as estimated with a reversible jump Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm, none of our landscape or disturbance measures affected DSR. Rather, variation in DSR was best described by nest height, overhead cover, and nest source (artificial or natural). These nest site level factors may be manipulated by managers through provision of artificial nests. We recommend that artificial nests continue to be provided, as such nests are highly successful when located on moderately tall substrates, and they permit researchers to access nest contents for population monitoring. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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