|Institution:||Texas A&M University|
|Full text PDF:||http://hdl.handle.net/1969.1/ETD-TAMU-2011-12-10349|
Despite habitat perturbations and seasonal fluctuations in reproduction, many studies report no significant inter-annual variation in Great Egret reproductive performance. I examined the reproductive performance of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) for two breeding seasons (2009 and 2010) immediately following Hurricane Ike at High Island, Texas. Breeding success, productivity, and mean brood size did not differ between years (U-test, P > 0.05). Fledging success at 21 days showed no significant difference between years, however fledging success at 28, 35, and 42 days decreased significantly between years (~15% reduction at 42 days; U-test, P = 0.027). The number of deaths per nest also differed significantly between 2009 and 2010 (0.36 and 0.95, respectively) (U-test, P = 0.013). Brood-size dependent mortality was also a significant between-year parameter (H test, P = 0.003). Successful nests in 2009 had a brood size range of 2 to 3, and of these nests, 6% and 50% experienced partial brood reduction, respectively; whereas 2010 brood size range for successful nests was 2 to 4, and 0%, 57%, and 100% of these nests, respectively, experienced partial brood reduction. Other parameters examined were water level, temperature, precipitation, prey availability, and human disturbance. I rejected my hypothesis that habitat conditions would be less conducive to high reproductive success in 2009 than 2010, due to the impacts of Hurricane Ike. My results suggest that Great Egrets have bimodal occurrences of nestling death that are expressed as a function of brood size, hatching spread, and nestling age. Reproductive performance studies should continue through at least fledging age (42 days post-hatching for Great Egrets) to better document the reproductive performance, especially by incorporating the apparent behavioral plasticity of nestlings.