Modeling spatial variation in avian survival and residency probabilities



The importance of understanding spatial variation in processes driving animal population dynamics is widely recognized. Yet little attention has been paid to spatial modeling of vital rates. Here we describe a hierarchical spatial autoregressive model to provide spatially explicit year-specific estimates of apparent survival (ϕ) and residency (π) probabilities from capture–recapture data. We apply the model to data collected on a declining bird species, Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), as part of a broad-scale bird-banding network, the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. The Wood Thrush analysis showed variability in both ϕ and π among years and across space. Spatial heterogeneity in residency probability was particularly striking, suggesting the importance of understanding the role of transients in local populations. We found broad-scale spatial patterning in Wood Thrush ϕ and π that lend insight into population trends and can direct conservation and research. The spatial model developed here represents a significant advance over approaches to investigating spatial pattern in vital rates that aggregate data at coarse spatial scales and do not explicitly incorporate spatial information in the model. Further development and application of hierarchical capture–recapture models offers the opportunity to more fully investigate spatiotemporal variation in the processes that drive population changes.