We studied the dusky flycatcher (Empidonax oberholseri) at 8 sites in central Idaho, USA, in 2002 and 2003 to examine relationships among vegetation cover, density of breeding conspecifics, and indicators of habitat quality. Number of breeding territories and number of fledglings per hectare were positively associated, suggesting that the dusky flycatcher experienced increased reproductive success where it bred at the highest densities. However, the relationships between nesting success, annual reproductive success, number of fledglings per hectare, and amount of understory cover showed substantial annual variation. Nesting success did not differ significantly across sites or between years. Both reproductive success, expressed as young produced per hectare (range: 0.34–3.09 in 2002 and 0.79–3.82 in 2003) and young produced per nesting attempt (range: 0.71–2.78 in 2002 and 1.11–3.10 in 2003), differed across study sites in each year. Mean clutch size did not differ significantly among sites or years. Mean egg weight showed significant variation across some sites within years and was associated negatively with the 3 measures of reproductive success in 2002, although small sample sizes prevented reliable inference about the appropriateness of this measure as an indicator of habitat quality. Mean clutch size and mean egg weight were not associated with vegetation cover variables. Thus, dusky flycatcher reproductive success showed inconsistencies with individual vegetation measurements at the site scale. Forest managers who use vegetation treatments to increase amounts of understory shrub cover (e.g., by removing portions of the overstory conifer canopy) should increase densities of this species and, in turn, increase number of fledglings produced, but these responses appear to be better measured at the territory or nest scales than at the stand or site scales.
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Vol. 71 • No. 1