Nesting ecology and reuse of nest burrows by Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) in southern Yukon
Keywords:Bank Swallow, Riparia riparia, nesting ecology, Yukon, colony occupancy, burrow reuse, nesting phenology, aerial insectivore, Species At Risk, boreal region
Bank Swallow (<i>Riparia riparia</i>) is a declining insectivorous bird that nests colonially in near-vertical surfaces, including natural banks along waterways as well as those created by industrial excavation. Several threats are likely contributing to the population decline, conservation measures have been recommended, and monitoring methods have been developed. However, little is known of this species in the extensive boreal portion of its breeding range. To assess whether recommendations developed in southern areas are likely to be effective in a more northerly region, we investigated aspects of the nesting ecology of Bank Swallow in southern Yukon during 2013–2017. Nesting activity occurred between 20 May and 21 August. We found an exceptional abundance of nest burrows in natural riverbanks along 46 km of the Yukon River near Whitehorse (326 burrows/km), but relatively low percent burrow occupancy in both natural and artificial habitats compared to studies from other regions. Year-to-year persistence of nest burrows and rates of reuse of burrows were high compared to other studies. We highlight the potential importance of the boreal region for recovery of Bank Swallow in Canada, and the importance of using region-specific estimates of percent occupancy when monitoring Bank Swallow using burrow counts. Further study is needed to determine whether unoccupied burrows contribute to nesting success, and whether there are situations in which Bank Swallow burrows should be protected year-round instead of only during nesting.
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