Context . The band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) is a migratory species occurring in western North America with low recruitment potential and populations that have declined an average of 2.4% per year since the 1960s. Investigations into band-tailed pigeon demographic rates date back to the early 1900s, and existing annual survival rate estimates were derived in the 1970s using band return data.
Aims . The primary purpose of the paper was to demonstrate that the apparent paradox between band-tailed pigeon population dynamics (long-term steady decline) and breeding season survival rates (very high) can be explained by changes in survival probability during the remainder of the year.
Methods . We trapped Pacific coast band-tailed pigeons during two separate periods: we equipped pigeons with very high frequency (VHF) radio-transmitters in 1999–2000 (1999 = 20; 2000 = 34); and outfitted pigeons with solar powered platform transmitting terminal (PTT) transmitters in 2006–08 (n = 20). We used known fate models to estimate annual survival rates and seasonal survival variation among four periods based on an annual behavioural cycle based on phenological events (nesting, autumn migration, winter and spring migrations). We used model averaged parameter estimates to account for model selection uncertainty.
Key results . Neither body condition nor sex were associated with variation in band-tailed pigeon survival rates. Weekly survival during the nesting season did not differ significantly between VHF-marked (0.996; CI = 0.984–0.999) and PTT-marked pigeons (0.998; CI = 0.990–1.00). Model averaged annual survival of PTT-marked pigeons was 0.682 (95% CI = 0.426–0.861) and was similar to annual survival estimated in previous studies using band return data. Survival probability was lowest during both migration periods and highest during the nesting period.
Conclusions . Our survival estimates are consistent with those of prior studies and suggest that mortality risk is greatest during migration. Weekly survival probability during winter was nearly the same as during the nesting season; however, winter was the longest period and survival throughout winter was lower than other seasons.
Implications . We present the first inter-seasonal analysis of survival probability of the Pacific coast race of band-tailed pigeons and illustrate important temporal patterns that may influence future species management including harvest strategies and disease monitoring.