Modelling irruptions and population dynamics of the great spotted woodpecker - joint effects of density and cone crops

  • Lindén A
  • Lehikoinen A
  • Hokkanen T
 et al. 
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Irruptive migrants are partially migrating species showing pronounced temporal variation in the number of migrants. Occasional irruptions are often explained by increased population density (per area) or lack of food. Similarly to population dynamics, these explanations are not mutually exclusive, but probably act in concert. Here we do a parallel analysis on the migration intensity and population dynamics of an irruptive migratory bird species, the great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major, in southern Finland. Both analyses include simultaneous effects of breeding density and cone crops of Scots pine Pinus sylvestris and Norway spruce Picea abies. A novel model for statistical analyses of irruptive migration intensity is developed. Population dynamics are investigated using log-linear state-space models. Woodpecker migration intensity is well explained by lack of spruce cones and increases proportionally to population density. Population dynamics is most successfully described with a density dependent model, where the natural logarithm of spruce cone availability previous autumn has a strong positive effect on population growth. This is likely to be due to lowered winter mortality and lowered emigration rates resulting from plentiful food availability. Although the species uses pine cones as a food resource in winter, the estimated impacts of pine cone crops on migration intensity and population dynamics are low, probably due to low annual variation in crop comparing to spruce cones. Large irruptions also tend to occur earlier in season, often before cones are a crucial food resource for the woodpeckers, suggesting that the woodpeckers use the amount of maturing cones as a cue for upcoming conditions. Our results show that the ecological role of different resources can differ considerably from the expected pattern based on the proportion of the resources in a species' diet. Advantages of examining patterns of bird migration, population density and dynamics in unison are apparent.

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  • Andreas Lindén

  • Aleksi Lehikoinen

  • Tatu Hokkanen

  • Risto A. Väisänen

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