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

Rogers, S. L., J. A. Collazo, and C. A. Drew. 2013. Nest occurrence and survival of King Rails in fire-managed coastal marshes in North Carolina and Virginia. J. Field Ornithology 84:355-366/


Abstract.- A greater understanding of King Rail (Rallus elegans) reproductive ecology in fire-managed marshes has been identified as a means to help alleviate their declining trend in freshwater emergent marshes. Call-broadcast surveys, nest searches and nest surveillance were used to estimate the probability of detecting reproductive activity and nest success at Mackay Island and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuges, North Carolina and Virginia, in 2009 and 2010. The probabilities that a surveyed plot was occupied ( ) and contained an active nest ( ) were higher in recently burned (0-1 years since burn [YSB]) marsh plots than in plots with 2 YSB in both refuges. Highest probabilities were recorded in 0-1 YSB plots at Mackay Island NWR ( = 0.96 0.04, = 0.75 0.18), and the lowest, in 2 YSB plots at Back Bay NWR ( = 0.21 0.10, = 0.03 0.04). Period nest survival from egg laying to hatching (31 days) was 0.48 (95% CI = 0.06 - 0.83), with an estimated 0.84 (95% CI = 0.60 – 1.0) for the incubation stage (21 days). While the linkage between occupancy and reproductive activity in 0-1 YSB marsh plots was established, low sample sizes precluded linking fire management and nest survival. Findings suggested that fire management creates habitat that holds potential for population growth. Studies focusing on the implications of prescribed burns for fitness should be conducted across multiple sites to capture variation in King Rail responses across its geographic range.