Demographic mechanisms of the population decline of the song thrush Turdus philomelos in Britain

Robinson, R. A., Green, R. E., Baillie, S. R., Peach, W. J., Thomson, D. L.
Journal of Animal Ecology , 73:4, 670–682 (2004)


Summary 1. In Britain, the song thrush Turdus philomelos is categorized as a species of high national conservation concern because of a large population decline during the last three decades. We calculated a series of annual national population estimates for woodland and farmland habitats combined for the period 1964–2000. We then used turning points analysis to identify seven blocks of years within the period of decline (1968–2000) with uniform rates of population change in the smoothed trend. 2. We used recoveries of song thrushes ringed as nestlings, juveniles and adults during April–September to estimate survival rates separately for the post-fledging period, the remainder of the first year and for adults. Daily survival probability was lower during the post-fledging period than during the remainder of the first year or for older birds. 3. There was evidence for variation in survival rates among blocks of years with different rates of population change, particularly for first-year survival. There were significant positive correlations across blocks between mean population multiplication rate (PMR) and both post-fledging and first-year survival. 4. Survival of first-year birds was correlated negatively with the duration of the longest run of frost days and the survival of adults was correlated negatively with the duration of the longest summer drought. Variation among blocks in mean PMR was correlated with block means of the duration of runs of frost days and drought days, but significant correlations between PMR and both post-fledging and first-year survival remained after allowing for the influence of weather on survival. 5. Changes in survival in the first winter, and perhaps also the post-fledging period, are sufficient to have caused the song thrush population decline. The environmental causes of these changes are not known, but changes in farming practices, land drainage, pesticides and predators are all candidates. Adverse weather conditions contributed to the decline, but were not the primary driver.
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