U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Bird Study (2015)


U.S. Government work


Capsule Interpretation of nest survival estimates may be improved by incorporating the search method used to locate nests as a covariate.

Aims To compare annual survival estimates for Dickcissel Spiza americana nests and determine if incorporating search method (structured, opportunistic, or behavioural searches) improved model fit.

Methods Dickcissel nests were located using structured, opportunistic, or behavioural searches over three years (2011–2013) in Mississippi, USA. Models were used to estimate daily survival rates (DSRs) and to analyse factors influencing nest survival.

Results DSRs for Dickcissels were best explained by quadratic date, nest age, age found, and year, but incorporating search method improved model fit. Daily survival was 1.51 times greater for nests located using opportunistic search methods relative to structured searches, but was not significantly different between structured and behavioural searches.

Conclusions Survival estimates varied by search method, specifically between structured searches and opportunistically located nests. This might have arisen because heterogeneity in nest placement or parental behaviour may influence the sample of nests located with a given search method. Researchers may be able to account for this potential source of bias by including search method as a model covariate when using standard survey designs or modelling approaches.

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