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Monitoring wader breeding productivity

Jarrett, David; Lehikoinen, Aleksi; Willis, Steve

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David Jarrett
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Aleksi Lehikoinen


A robust understanding of the mechanisms driving demographic change in wild animal populations is fundamental to the delivery of effective conservation interventions. Demographic change can be driven by variation in adult survival, recruitment of juveniles into the breeding population or breeding productivity – the number of fledglings produced per breeding pair. Across Europe, low breeding productivity in wader populations has been a significant driver of population decline, increasing the importance of gathering accurate data on breeding productivity. Monitoring wader breeding productivity is challenging because finding nests can be time‐consuming and requires experienced fieldworkers; wader chicks are nidifugous and difficult to count due to their cryptic behaviour; and waders often have high re‐laying rates following nest failure, meaning that hatching or fledging can be highly asynchronous. This paper reviews approaches to estimating breeding productivity where fieldworkers either record the agitation or alarm‐calling behaviour of adults with dependent young, make direct observations of broods on survey visits, or both. Using a systematic literature search (restricted to Europe where most of these studies have taken place) we identified 38 peer‐reviewed papers which used this approach. The productivity metrics produced can be divided into the following categories: (i) ‘Hatching Success’ (HS), (ii) ‘Fledging Success’ (FS) and (iii) ‘Young Fledged Per Pair’ (YFP), from the coarsest to the most precise. The first two metrics are most often used when direct observations of broods are not possible due to the behaviour of broods or vegetation structure; YFP is preferred if brood counts are possible. Design of an appropriate metric depends on (i) whether accurate brood counts are possible; (ii) whether adults exhibit diagnostic agitation behaviour when young are present; (iii) whether individual breeding territories are separable; (iv) whether re‐nesting rates are assumed to be high; and (v) the availability of experienced surveyors (particularly where behavioural observations are required). Globally there are many wader species for which the methods described here could provide valuable information and we hope this review encourages further development or adoption of these methods.


Jarrett, D., Lehikoinen, A., & Willis, S. (2023). Monitoring wader breeding productivity. Ibis: International Journal of Avian Science,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 5, 2023
Online Publication Date Dec 15, 2023
Publication Date Dec 15, 2023
Deposit Date Dec 20, 2023
Publicly Available Date Dec 20, 2023
Journal Ibis
Print ISSN 0019-1019
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords shorebird, chick survival, breeding success, meadow bird, territory success, productivity, fledging rate
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