Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Lawson, A.J., J.S. Sedinger, and E.J. Taylor. 2017. Life history patterns, individual heterogeneity, and density dependence in breeding common goldeneyes of the northern boreal forest. Journal of Avian Biology 48:597–610. doi:10.1111/jav.00975


Life history patterns and their associated tradeoffs influence population dynamics, as they determine how individuals allocate resources among competing demographic traits. Here we examined life history strategies in common goldeneyes Bucephala clangula (hereafter goldeneye), a cavity-nesting sea duck, in the northern boreal forest of interior Alaska, USA. We used multistate capture–mark–recapture models to estimate adult survival, breeding probability, first-year survival, and recruitment probability using a long-term nest box study (1997–2010). We detected annual variation in adult survival, which varied from 0.74 ± 0.12 (SE) to 0.93 ± 0.06. In contrast, breeding probability remained relatively high and invariant (0.84 ± 0.11) and was positively related to individual nest success the year prior. Nonbreeding individuals in one year were more likely to remain a nonbreeder, than attempt to breed the following year. First-year survival decreased with smaller residual duckling mass and larger brood sizes. Probability of recruitment into the breeding population conditioned on survival was constant during the study (0.96 ± 0.06), and did not vary among ages 2–5 yr-old. Overall, goldeneyes exhibited high, but somewhat variable, adult survival, and high breeding and recruitment probabilities, which is consistent with observed patterns in bet-hedging species that breed annually in high quality breeding environments, but whose reproductive output is often influenced by stochastic events. Demographic estimates from this study are among the first for goldeneyes within Alaska. Life history patterns are known to vary geographically, therefore, we recommend further examination of life history patterns within the distribution of goldeneyes.