Effects of vegetation, interspecific competition, and brood parasitism on Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) nesting success

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The recent decline of Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) correlates with the loss of suitable nesting habitat, range expansion by Blue-winged Warblers (V. pinus), and eastward expansion of Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater). Multivariate statistics were used to examine effects of those factors on Golden-winged Warbler reproduction in north central New York. Herb and shrub cover were positively correlated with clutch size. Blue-winged Warbler proximity was negatively correlated with Golden-winged Warbler clutch size. Tree cover and perhaps herb cover, after adjusting for brood size, correlated with a reduced number of Golden-winged Warbler fledglings. Herbaceous cover correlated with a greater number of cowbird eggs in Golden-winged Warbler nests. Cowbird parasitism correlated with a reduction in the number of Golden-winged Warbler eggs incubated and proportion of incubated eggs that hatched. However, cowbird parasitism, after adjusting for brood size, did not significantly affect nestling success rate. Cowbirds parasitized 30% of Golden-winged Warbler nests, which reduced the number of Golden-winged Warblers fledged by ∼17%. Average herb and tree cover values were 69 and 22 in Golden-winged Warbler territories and 60 and 23 in Blue-winged Warbler territories, respectively, with herb cover significantly greater for Golden-winged Warblers. Territories in the earliest stages of succession used by Golden-winged Warblers supported larger clutches and a reduction in the strong, negative effect of Blue-winged Warbler proximity and an increase in the negative effect correlated with cowbirds, if cowbirds were locally abundant.

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