For my dissertation, in Chris Elphick's lab at the University of Connecticut, and in collaboration with numerous others through the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program, I compared male and female saltmarsh and seaside sparrows during the breeding and non-breeding seasons to investigate the impact of their differing reproductive strategies on key components in their annual cycles: 1) within-season survival and body condition, 2) feather quality and condition, 3) the timing of migration and molt events, and 4) migration patterns to the non-breeding grounds. Questions I will address include:
Consequences: During the breeding season, are survival and body condition of male and female saltmarsh and seaside sparrows correlated with reproductive effort? During the non-breeding period, are survival and body condition correlated with past reproductive effort? With current environmental conditions?
Feather quality and condition: During the breeding season, do females’ feathers become more damaged than males’ feathers? Do all birds have worse feather wear during the breeding season than during the non-breeding season?
Timing of migration and molt events: Do male saltmarsh and seaside sparrows return to the breeding grounds earlier than conspecific females do? After the breeding season, do males of each species molt earlier and leave earlier than conspecific females? Do the timing patterns differ for the two species?
Migration patterns: Is the over-wintering location (based on latitude) of individual birds influenced by the birds’ sex or size in either species?