US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Auk Volume 96, Number 4, October 1979.


Mayfield's method for calculating the success of a group of nests is examined in detail. The standard error of his estimator is developed. Mayfield's assumption that destroyed nests are at risk until the midpoint of the interval between visits leads to bias if nests are visited infrequently. A remedy is suggested, the Mayfield-40% method. I also present a competing model, which recognizes that the actual destruction date of a failed nest is unknown. Estimated daily mortality rates and standard errors are developed under this model. A comparison of the original Mayfield method, the Mayfield-40% method, and the new method, which incorporates an unknown date of destruction, shows that the original or modified Mayfield method performs nearly as well as the more appropriate method and requires far easier calculations. A technique for statistically comparing daily mortality rates is offered; the one proposed by Dow (1978) is claimed to be misleading. Finally, I give a method for detecting heterogeneity among nests and an improved estimator, if it is found.