Evaluation of counting methods for monitoring populations of a cryptic alpine passerine, the rock wren (Passeriformes, Acanthisittidae, Xenicus gilviventris).
ABSTRACT: Developing and validating methods to determine trends in populations of threatened species is essential for evaluating the effectiveness of conservation interventions. For cryptic species inhabiting remote environments, this can be particularly challenging. Rock wrens, Xenicus gilviventris, are small passerines endemic to the alpine zone of southern New Zealand. They are highly vulnerable to predation by introduced mammalian predators. Establishing a robust, cost-effective monitoring tool to evaluate population trends in rock wrens is a priority for conservation of both the species and, more broadly, as part of a suite of indicators for evaluating effectiveness of management in New Zealand's alpine ecosystems. We assessed the relative accuracy and precision of three population estimation techniques (mark-resight, distance sampling and simple counts on line transects) for two populations of rock wrens in the Southern Alps over six breeding seasons (2012-2018). The performance of these population estimators was compared to known rock wren population size derived from simultaneous territory mapping. Indices of abundance derived from counts on transects were correlated with territory mapping at both study areas, and performed better than either mark-resight methods or distance sampling. Simple counts on standardised line transects are a highly cost-effective method of monitoring birds because they do not require banding a population. As such, we recommend that line transect counts using the design outlined in this paper be adopted as a standard method for long-term monitoring of rock wren populations. Although species-specific testing is required to validate use of low-cost population indices, our results may have utility for the monitoring of other cryptic passerines in relatively open habitats.
Project description:Our analysis of the ND2 sequences revealed six clades within winter wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes). These clades corresponded to six geographical regions: western Nearctic, eastern Nearctic, eastern Asia, Nepal, Caucasus and Europe, and differed by 3-8.8% of sequence divergence. Differences among regions explained 96% of the sequence variation in winter wren. Differences among individuals within localities explained 3% of the sequence variation, and differences among localities within regions explained 1%. Grouping sequences into subspecies instead of localities did not change these proportions. Proliferation of the six clades coincided with Early and Middle Pleistocene glaciations. The distribution of winter wren clades can be explained by a series of five consecutive vicariant events. Western Nearctic wrens diverged from the Holarctic ancestor 1.6 Myr before the present time (MYBP). Eastern Nearctic and Palaearctic wrens diverged 1 MYBP. Eastern and western Palaearctic birds diverged 0.83 MYBP. Nepalese and east Asian wrens diverged 0.67 MYBP, and Caucasian birds diverged from European wrens 0.54 MYBP. The winter wren has a much greater degree of inter- and intracontinental differentiation than the three other Holarctic birds studied to date--dunlin (Calidris alpina), common raven (Corvus corax) and three-toed woodpecker (Picoides trydactylus)--and represents an example of cryptic speciation that has been overlooked.
Project description:Many passerine birds are small and require a high mass-specific rate of resting energy expenditure, especially in the cold. The energetics of thermoregulation is, therefore, an important aspect of their ecology, yet few studies have quantified thermoregulatory patterns in wild passerines. We used miniature telemetry to record the skin temperature ( Tskin) of free-living superb fairy-wrens ( Malurus cyaneus, 8.6 g; n = 6 birds over N = 7-22 days) and determine the importance of controlled reductions in body temperature during resting to their winter energy budgets. Fairy-wrens routinely exhibited large daily fluctuations in Tskin between maxima of 41.9 ± 0.6°C and minima of 30.4 ± 0.7°C, with overall individual minima of 27.4 ± 1.1°C (maximum daily range: 14.7 ± 0.9°C). These results provide strong evidence of nocturnal torpor in this small passerine, which we calculated to provide a 42% reduction in resting metabolic rate at a Ta of 5°C compared to active-phase Tskin. A capacity for energy-saving torpor has important consequences for understanding the behaviour and life-history ecology of superb fairy-wrens. Moreover, our novel field data suggest that torpor could be more widespread and important than previously thought within passerines, the most diverse order of birds.
Project description:Vertebrates that eavesdrop on heterospecific alarm calls must distinguish alarms from sounds that can safely be ignored, but the mechanisms for identifying heterospecific alarm calls are poorly understood. While vertebrates learn to identify heterospecific alarms through experience, some can also respond to unfamiliar alarm calls that are acoustically similar to conspecific alarm calls. We used synthetic calls to test the role of specific acoustic properties in alarm call identification by superb fairy-wrens, Malurus cyaneus. Individuals fled more often in response to synthetic calls with peak frequencies closer to those of conspecific calls, even if other acoustic features were dissimilar to that of fairy-wren calls. Further, they then spent more time in cover following calls that had both peak frequencies and frequency modulation rates closer to natural fairy-wren means. Thus, fairy-wrens use similarity in specific acoustic properties to identify alarms and adjust a two-stage antipredator response. Our study reveals how birds respond to heterospecific alarm calls without experience, and, together with previous work using playback of natural calls, shows that both acoustic similarity and learning are important for interspecific eavesdropping. More generally, this study reconciles contrasting views on the importance of alarm signal structure and learning in recognition of heterospecific alarms.
Project description:Although recreational birdwatchers may benefit conservation by generating interest in birds, they may also have negative effects. One such potentially negative impact is the widespread use of recorded vocalizations, or "playback," to attract birds of interest, including range-restricted and threatened species. Although playback has been widely used to test hypotheses about the evolution of behavior, no peer-reviewed study has examined the impacts of playback in a birdwatching context on avian behavior. We studied the effects of simulated birdwatchers' playback on the vocal behavior of Plain-tailed Wrens Thryothorus euophrys and Rufous Antpittas Grallaria rufula in Ecuador. Study species' vocal behavior was monitored for an hour after playing either a single bout of five minutes of song or a control treatment of background noise. We also studied the effects of daily five minute playback on five groups of wrens over 20 days. In single bout experiments, antpittas made more vocalizations of all types, except for trills, after playback compared to controls. Wrens sang more duets after playback, but did not produce more contact calls. In repeated playback experiments, wren responses were strong at first, but hardly detectable by day 12. During the study, one study group built a nest, apparently unperturbed, near a playback site. The playback-induced habituation and changes in vocal behavior we observed suggest that scientists should consider birdwatching activity when selecting research sites so that results are not biased by birdwatchers' playback. Increased vocalizations after playback could be interpreted as a negative effect of playback if birds expend energy, become stressed, or divert time from other activities. In contrast, the habituation we documented suggests that frequent, regular birdwatchers' playback may have minor effects on wren behavior.
Project description:Background:Passeriformes ("perching birds" or passerines) make up more than half of all extant bird species. The genome of the zebra finch, a passerine model organism for vocal learning, was noted previously to contain thousands of short interspersed elements (SINEs), a group of retroposons that is abundant in mammalian genomes but considered largely inactive in avian genomes. Results:Here we resolve the deep phylogenetic relationships of passerines using presence/absence patterns of SINEs. The resultant retroposon-based phylogeny provides a powerful and independent corroboration of previous sequence-based analyses. Notably, SINE activity began in the common ancestor of Eupasseres (passerines excluding the New Zealand wrens Acanthisittidae) and ceased before the rapid diversification of oscine passerines (suborder Passeri - songbirds). Furthermore, we find evidence for very recent SINE activity within suboscine passerines (suborder Tyranni), following the emergence of a SINE via acquisition of a different tRNA head as we suggest through template switching. Conclusions:We propose that the early evolution of passerines was unusual among birds in that it was accompanied by de-novo emergence and activity of SINEs. Their genomic and transcriptomic impact warrants further study in the light of the massive diversification of passerines.
Project description:Passerine birds comprise over half of avian diversity, but have proved difficult to classify. Despite a long history of work on this group, no comprehensive hypothesis of passerine family-level relationships was available until recent analyses of DNA-DNA hybridization data. Unfortunately, given the value of such a hypothesis in comparative studies of passerine ecology and behaviour, the DNA-hybridization results have not been well tested using independent data and analytical approaches. Therefore, we analysed nucleotide sequence variation at the nuclear RAG-1 and c-mos genes from 69 passerine taxa, including representatives of most currently recognized families. In contradiction to previous DNA-hybridization studies, our analyses suggest paraphyly of suboscine passerines because the suboscine New Zealand wren Acanthisitta was found to be sister to all other passerines. Additionally, we reconstructed the parvorder Corvida as a basal paraphyletic grade within the oscine passerines. Finally, we found strong evidence that several family-level taxa are misplaced in the hybridization results, including the Alaudidae, Irenidae, and Melanocharitidae. The hypothesis of relationships we present here suggests that the oscine passerines arose on the Australian continental plate while it was isolated by oceanic barriers and that a major northern radiation of oscines (i.e. the parvorder Passerida) originated subsequent to dispersal from the south.
Project description:Free-roaming cats (FRCs) form nondomiciliary population groups that might lead to adverse environmental effects, as well as to welfare impairment of the cats themselves. Though criticized by ecologists, for the last two decades, the trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs were often employed aiming to manage these populations. At present, no accepted and accessible monitoring scheme exists to determine the effectiveness of those programs. In the current study, we present the reliability and validity of an applicable monitoring scheme, as an adjunct tool for a TNR program of FRC in an urban environment. The monitoring scheme is based on cat observation counts along randomly chosen transects. Fifty-four transects were repeatedly walked for three years, between 2012-2014, in 27 neighborhoods within an urban area of 19.3 Km2. Cat numbers counted in the 2014 observations were significantly higher than cat numbers found in the 2012 observations (prevalence ratio = 1.258, CI95%= 1.198-1.322, p < 0.001). The method revealed high reliability when different observers and different transects in the same neighborhood were compared (R 2 = 0.548 and R 2 = 0.391, respectively, for measuring cat counts per km, p < 0.001; and R 2 = 0.5 and R 2 = 0.74, respectively, for measuring neutering percentage, p < 0.001). This scheme was constructively validated by measurements of municipal data on the number of neutered cats and demonstrated high correlation (R 2 = 0.59, p < 0.001). Conducting cat observations using friendly calling and feeding resulted in an increased number of FRC observed per km walk (by 79% and 22%-30%, respectively). However, these manipulations did not alter the recorded percentage of neutered cats. The proposed scheme provides spatio-temporal data that can contribute to the management programs of such cat metapopulations in an urban environment.
Project description:In 2016, an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium (STm) with multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) profiles historically associated with passerine birds (2-[11-15]-[3-4]-NA-212) occurred among passerines, cats and humans in Sweden. Our retrospective observational study investigated the outbreak and revisited historical data from 2009-16 to identify seasonality, phylogeography and other characteristics of this STm variant. Outbreak isolates were analysed by whole-genome single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) typing. The number of notified cases of passerine-associated STm among passerines, cats and humans per month and county, and their MLVA profiles, were compared to birdwatchers' counts of passerines. Seasonal trend decomposition and correlation analysis was performed. Outbreak isolates did not cluster by host on SNP level. Passerine-associated STm was seasonal for birds, cats and humans, with a peak in March. Cases and counts of passerines at bird feeders varied between years. The incidence of passerine-associated STm infections in humans was higher in the boreal north compared with the southern and capital regions, consistent with passerine population densities. Seasonal mass migration of passerines appears to cause STm outbreaks among cats certain years in Sweden, most likely via predation on weakened birds. Outbreaks among humans can follow, presumably caused by contact with cats or environmental contamination.
Project description:It is widely accepted that recent increases in environmental temperature have had a causal effect on changing life histories; however, much of the evidence for this is derived from long-term observations, whereas inferences of causation require experimentation. Here, we assess effects of increased environmental temperature during incubation on posthatching development, nestling begging and parental care, and reproductive success in two wild, cavity-nesting songbirds, the Carolina wren and prothonotary warbler. We heated experimental nests only during incubation, which increased nest-cavity temperature by ca. 1?°C. This reduced the length of the incubation and nestling periods, and reduced fledging success in prothonotary warblers, while nestling Carolina wrens had similar fledging success but reduced body condition in response to increased temperature. Increased nest-cavity temperature during incubation also reduced posthatching begging by nestlings generally and parental care within Carolina wrens specifically, suggesting potential mechanisms generating these carry-over effects. Offspring body mass and fledging age are often predictive of post-fledging survival and recruitment. Thus, our results suggest that increasing temperatures may affect fitness in wild populations in species-specific ways, and induce life-history changes including the classic trade-off parents face between the size and number of offspring.
Project description:Background:Enumerating dog populations is essential to plan and evaluate rabies vaccination campaigns. To estimate vaccination coverage and dog population size in a Haitian commune, 15 sight-resight counts were conducted over two days following a government-sponsored vaccination campaign. Methods:Dogs received temporary laminated collars and livestock wax marks on the head and sides at the time of rabies vaccination. After the vaccination campaign, pairs of surveyors walked pre-defined routes through targeted neighborhoods, photographing and recording characteristics and location of each dog seen on a standardized data sheet. On the second survey day, surveyors retraced the prior day's track, followed the same procedure, and indicated in addition whether they believed the dogs were resighted from the prior day. After completion of the field survey, two independent evaluators reviewed photographs and characteristics of each dog to assess which had vaccination marks and which were resighted. Surveyor and photo-reviewer sight-resight decisions were compared using Cohen's kappa, and population estimates were compared using Lincoln-Petersen 95% confidence intervals. Results:Field-surveyors identified dogs consistent with the photograph evaluations in 629 out of 800 instances (78.6%, Cohen's kappa of 0.12). Despite this inconsistency, the population estimates resulting from the field and final determinations were not significantly different at 1,789 (95% CI 1,677 to 1,901) and 1,978 (95% CI 1,839 to 2,118). Vaccination coverage was also the same at 55% and 56%; however, an observed vaccination mark loss of 13.8% suggests that the true coverage may have been closer to 64%. Conclusion:Using photos improved dog identification during the sight-resight study, leading to a higher population estimate. Despite using a 2-mark system to temporarily identify vaccinated dogs, a significant proportion had lost all identifying marks by the second day of field surveys. Efforts to estimate vaccination coverage using sight-resight surveys should consider improvement of marking techniques or better accounting for potential loss of marks in their free-roaming dog vaccination coverage assessments.