An accurate understanding of factors influencing survival and how they affect population growth are required to determine the best conservation strategies for small populations, especially near the limit of a species' range. We estimated adult and juvenile survival for a small population of the threatened western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) in coastal northern California over 7 years (2001–2007). We also evaluated population structure and growth to determine the relative importance of immigration and local recruitment. Apparent survival for adult males (φ = 0.61 ± 0.08) was greater than that of adult females (φ = 0.50 ± 0.11), and survival of adults was greater than for juveniles (φ = 0.40 ± 0.06). An algebraic assessment of population growth (λ) revealed that fecundity and survival were insufficient to maintain the population (λ = 0.66–0.77), whereas estimates based on consecutive annual counts (λ = 0.96 ± 0.26) and a Pradel model (λ = 0.92 ± 0.11) suggested the population was more stable. These results, combined with annual variation in the number of newly marked plovers, indicate that the local population was maintained by immigration and can be classified as a sink. Management actions aimed at increasing fecundity, including predator control and greater restrictions on human activity, may be necessary to maintain this population; actions aimed at increasing adult survival are more challenging.
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