Multi-scale analyses of habitat selection and demographic consequences for South Carolina clapper rails (Rallus longirostris)
Ricketts, Catherine Elizabeth
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Clapper rails (Rallus longirostris) are a secretive gamebird species of coastal tidal marshes. I combined an examination of rail habitat choices at multiple scales with estimation of two demographic parameters, studies of which were until now, non-existent for Atlantic coast populations. I determined the sex of captured rails (n = 82) using genetic testing of tissues to examine potential sex-based differences in habitat choices or survival. I radio-tracked 83 rails during the 2009 and 2010 breeding seasons and found that rails selected home ranges with more foraging area than available across the landscape which possibly increased survival. Rails selected nest sites with lower tidal maxima than available across the landscape, in part, resulting in higher nest survival (i.e., a successful hatching event). It is evident that a year-round radio-tracking effort and explicit studies of the distribution and densities of clapper rail prey items would answer questions emerging from this work.