New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2023) 47(1): 3507

Recruitment, survival and breeding success in a declining rifleman population

Research Article
Nyil Khwaja 1,2,3*
Stephanie A. J. Preston 1
Ben J. Hatchwell 1
James V. Briskie 2
  1. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TN, United Kingdom
  2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, Canterbury, New Zealand
  3. BirdLife Australia, Broome Bird Observatory, PO Box 1313, Broome, Western Australia 6725, Australia
*  Corresponding author

We used detailed life-history data collected over a six-year period from a colour-banded population of riflemen (Acanthisitta chloris) at Kowhai Bush, Kaikōura, to estimate population vital rates and assess their likely contribution to a concurrent population decline. Both mean juvenile survival (18%) and mean adult survival (49%) were low in comparison with reports from other populations. In contrast, breeding success was high, with pairs producing c. 3 fledglings per season on average. High breeding success was likely associated with nestbox use. We then used survival and breeding success estimates to parameterise a population matrix model, and perturbation analysis of this model confirmed a projected negative trend, with reduced recruitment having the greatest absolute contribution to population decline. We discuss possible explanations for the comparatively low rates of recruitment and survival observed. Data from other populations of riflemen experiencing stable or positive population trajectories would be especially useful to better understand factors affecting vital rates, and to identify the thresholds that signal a rifleman population at risk of decline.