Models for estimating survival probability of nests and young have changed dramatically since the development of the Mayfield method. Improvements in software and a steady increase in computing power have allowed more complexity and realism in these models, allowing researchers to provide better estimates of survival and to relate survival rates to relevant covariates. However, many current analysis methods utilize fixed-effects models with the implicit assumption that the covariates explain all of the variation in the data, other than random variation within a specified family of distributions. This is generally a strong assumption, and, in the presence of heterogeneity and lack of independence, these estimates have been shown to be negatively biased. Others have begun to explore random-effects models for these situations, but a readily applicable Bayesian approach has been lacking. We present a general Bayesian modeling framework appropriate for survival of both nests and young that simultaneously allows for the inclusion of individual covariates and random effects and provides a measure of goodness-of-fit. We used previously published data on survival of Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) ducklings in interior Alaska and on nest survival in three species of prairie-nesting ducks that nested in the Missouri Coteau region of North Dakota to demonstrate this approach. The inclusion of a brood-level random effect in the Common Goldeneye example increased point estimates and credible interval [CI] coverage from 0.62 (95% CI: 0.49–0.73) and 0.66 (95% CI: 0.58–0.74) for 2002 and 2003, respectively, to 0.69 (95% CI: 0.42–0.88) and 0.74 (95% CI: 0.57–0.88) for 2002 and 2003, respectively.
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Vol. 127 • No. 2