We compared the efficacy of standard nest-searching methods with finding nests via radio-tagged birds to assess how search technique influenced our determination of nest-site characteristics and nest success for Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera). We also evaluated the cost-effectiveness of using radio-tagged birds to find nests. Using standard nest-searching techniques for 3 populations, we found 111 nests in locations with habitat characteristics similar to those described in previous studies: edges between forest and relatively open areas of early successional vegetation or shrubby wetlands, with 43% within 5 m of forest edge. The 83 nests found using telemetry were about half as likely (23%) to be within 5 m of forest edge. We spent little time searching >25 m into forest because published reports state that Golden-winged Warblers do not nest there. However, 14 nests found using telemetry (18%) were >25 m into forest. We modeled nest success using nest-searching method, nest age, and distance to forest edge as explanatory variables. Nest-searching method explained nest success better than nest age alone; we estimated that nests found using telemetry were 10% more likely to fledge young than nests found using standard nest-searching methods. Although radio-telemetry was more expensive than standard nest searching, the cost-effectiveness of both methods differed depending on searcher experience, amount of equipment owned, and bird population density. Our results demonstrate that telemetry can be an effective method for reducing bias in Golden-winged Warbler nest samples, can be cost competitive with standard nest-searching methods in some situations, and is likely to be a useful approach for finding nests of other forest-nesting songbirds.
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