Because of the difficulty of following female songbirds through an entire breeding season, field ornithologists are seldom able to directly measure seasonal fecundity (defined as number of offspring produced per female during an entire breeding season). Instead, it is more commonly inferred from some measure of nest-productivity data (e.g. average number of offspring fledged per nesting attempt) using algorithms that make assumptions about the propensity of females to renest after a nest failure or after successfully fledging a brood. Recent analyses have often assumed set maximum numbers of nesting attempts and successful broods, and that all females breed up to those maxima. However, whereas data from songbirds intensively followed for an entire breeding season show that they are capable of up to 4–8 nesting attempts, many authors, in estimating seasonal fecundity, assume a maximum of only 1–4 nesting attempts. We applied a model to a Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor) data set (Nolan 1978) that allowed direct comparisons of (1) seasonal-fecundity estimates obtained assuming fixed maximum numbers of renestings and broods with (2) estimates obtained assuming that numbers of renesting attempts and successful nests are constrained only indirectly by length of breeding season. Although results under the latter assumption are concordant with Nolan's (1978) direct empirical measure of Prairie Warbler seasonal fecundity, estimates under assumptions of fixed maxima of renestings or broods are in serious error for many parameter choices. As such, our analyses disclose that essentially all estimates of seasonal fecundity in the literature derived by assuming a limited maximum number of nesting attempts or of successful broods are biased. Most commonly, when nest mortality is high, seasonal fecundity is underestimated; in some cases where nest mortality is low, seasonal fecundity is overestimated. We recommend that researchers estimating seasonal fecundity from nest-productivity data use a model that explicitly sets breeding-season length and thereby only indirectly constrains the possible number of nesting attempts and successful broods.
La Nidificación Repetida Determina la Fecundidad Estacional en las Aves Canoras: ¿Qué Sabemos? ¿Qué Deberíamos Suponer?