We used 19 years of mark-recapture/resighting data collected on 11,020 birds from 1988-2006 at five colony sites in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, USA, to examine temporal variation in the survival rates of adult Roseate Terns (Sterna dougallii) during periods of overall population increase (1988-2000) and decline (2000-2006). Roseate Terns nested at only one colony site in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts at the start of this period, but two more sites in this area were recolonized as the study progressed. Adult survival rates varied temporally in different ways at the different colony sites, but for the five sites combined they did not differ between the period of overall population increase (0.835 ± 0.006 SE) and the period of population decline (0.835 ± 0.008 SE). As expected based on previous work, adult survival from 1991 to 1992 was lowered as a result of a severe hurricane in August 1991. An oil spill in Buzzards Bay in April 2003 did not appear to result in lower survival of the birds nesting at the sites in this area compared to those nesting at the other two study sites in New York and Connecticut. Temporal variation in other vital rates of this species (such as postfledging survival) needs to be examined to determine the likely cause(s) of the recent population decline.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3