A key component of wildlife management is understanding the demographic parameters that drive population size. Determining these parameters for migratory species has important conservation implications. These parameters provide insight into how and why population size fluctuates and can be used to predict how population size may change under different environmental circumstances. However, determining these parameters is challenging because animals must be studied through space and time, often at broad geographic scales. In particular, studying small, migratory animals such as songbirds is difficult.
Our project goal is to produce a demographic model of Canada’s only endemic songbird, the Ipswich Sparrow, federally listed under the Species at Risk Act as Special Concern. Ipswich Sparrows are uniquely suited to this type of study as their exclusive breeding grounds on a small island (Sable Island, NS) and confinement to coastal dune habitat during winter along the Atlantic Coast allows a large proportion of the population to be assessed. We are working with partners in the USA to deploy coloured leg bands on sparrows and relocate these birds on both breeding and wintering grounds to collect data on their demography (e.g, seasonal survival of different age classes). Contributions from of non-professional volunteers (‘citizen scientists’) of banded sparrow observations have provided invaluable data that support the success of this project.