The Puerto Rican Plain Pigeon (Columba inornata wetmorei) was listed as endangered in 1970. Transect-survey and nest-monitoring data were collected to estimate reproductive parameters and to assess effects of weather, food, predation, and habitat. We monitored 377 of 423 nests found in east-central Puerto Rico during February-September 1986-2000. The largest sampling effort was conducted in May-June 1998, and 131 nests were found along 8,460 m, resulting in a nest density (D̂) of 5.26 per hectare or 356 nesting pairs (N̂) in the surveyed area (a = 67.7 ha). Nest spatial distribution was highly clumped (b̂ = 3.2) and transect surveys were highly variable (CV = 40%). Thus, 34,000 m needed to be surveyed for a desired coefficient of variation (CV[D̂]) of 20%. Nest density varied widely during May-June 1986–2000. With a CV about the trend line of 121%, from 18 to 28 years of data would be needed to detect an increase or a decrease (r) of 5–10% in log-transformed nest density estimates through linear regression analysis (alpha = 0.15 and power = 0.80). Whereas food abundance had positive and significant relationships with nest density and number of fledglings produced, predator density had negative and significant relationships with nesting success and the number of fledglings produced. Predation accounted for 79% of nest losses (n = 183). Mayfield's estimates of nesting success averaged 40% and an average of 0.5 fledglings were produced per nesting pair. Because Plain Pigeons are able to produce fledglings from three or more broods per year and have extended nesting seasons (with a nest density peak usually occurring in May-June), we hypothesized that hatch-year and after-hatch-year survival rates of 50–65% and a yearly productivity of 1.4–2.0 fledglings per nesting pair were enough to offset mortality. Our optimism is tempered by the fact that Plain Pigeons have not been reported nesting outside east-central Puerto Rico, where rapid destruction and fragmentation of second-growth forests, catastrophic weather, food availability, nest predation, illegal hunting and poaching of nestlings may interact and cause an irreversible population decline. Managers should focus on conserving and restoring second-growth forest fragments to provide food and cover throughout the year. Additional recommendations are given based on the results of our study, which was part of a larger study of factors affecting the reproduction of columbids on Puerto Rico and its territories.
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Vol. 120 • No. 2