Even with just two eggs/breeding season, most species in the tropics could potentially double their population in a single year should every egg turn into an adult. But tropical species can live for several years so populations could increase several-fold. However, avian population in the tropics are relatively stable. This means that a pair of birds, on average, only replace themselves. So if a bird lays 16-30 eggs in a lifetime, only 2 survive.
That would be an average per individual in a population. The reality is much more noisy. There are probably birds that are never successful and don't replace themselves and other birds are extremely productive and have enough offspring to offset the losses from other birds.
But why is failure so common? Could it help explain why birds are lost from forest fragments?
Ph.D. Candidate Deb Visco and her advisor Dr. Tom Sherry from Tulane University (now deeply immerse in Carnival!) set out to measure nest predation in the Chestnut-backed Antbird in a large forest tract and a forest fragment in Costa Rica.
|Costa Rican understory at La Selva|
To get predation rates and identify predators they set up digital video recorders. And record they did - over 22,000 hours of video were taken. What did it reveal? They captured forty-six predation events: one ocelot, one four-eyed possum (no idea what that is), a semiplumbeous hawk, two fire (not army!) ant swarms, and forty-one snake predation events. Amazingly, 80.4% of predation events were by one species of snake, Pseustes poecilonotus (see below). Please follow the link to the article to see pictures of the snake in action. I've seen my Ph.D. advisor give a talk to packed room on nest videography in the tropics and it makes for a great presentation.
|Photo credit Maxime Aliaga see http://maxime-aliaga.com for more photos|
Hats off to the investigators for one of the most thorough investigations of nest predation in the tropics! Well done guys!