Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) fledglings use crop habitat more frequently in relation to its availability than pasture and other habitat types

  • February 19, 2020
  • by Boynton, C. K., Mahony, N. A., & Williams, T. D


Populations of birds that forage on aerial insects have been declining across North America for several decades, but the main causes of and reasons for geographical variation in these declines remains unclear. We examined the habitat use and survival of post-fledging Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, using VHF radio telemetry. We predicted that fledgling Barn Swallows hatched in higher-quality natal habitat (pasture) would fledge at higher quality, stay closest to the nest, disproportionately use higher-quality habitat during the post-fledge stage, and have higher survival rates in the region. Contrary to our predictions, we found that natal habitat (crop, pasture, or non-agriculture) had no effect on fledgling quality or movement distance. Barn Swallow fledglings used crop habitat more frequently in relation to its availability than other habitat types, including pasture. Barn Swallows had low post-fledging survival rates (0.44; 95% CI: 0.35–0.57), which could negatively influence the population trend of the species in this region. While natal habitat had only minor effects, crop habitat appears to be important for fledgling Barn Swallows and, therefore, a decline in this habitat type could have further negative implications for an already declining species.

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