The many hazards that await birds along their migratory routes may negatively affect their survival, especially among newly fledged young. We estimated survival of young Greater Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens atlantica) during fall migration from the High Arctic to temperate areas and examined factors affecting their survival over a five-year period, using two approaches. First, each year (1993–1997), we banded fledglings and adults in mid-August, just before their departure from Bylot Island in the High Arctic (Nunavut, Canada), and again at an important staging area 3,000 km to the south at the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area (Québec, Canada) in October; recovery data from those two banding periods allowed estimation of survival during fall migration. Second, we visually determined brood size of neck-banded females before and after the main portion of the migratory flight, to estimate survival of young. The two approaches yielded similar survival estimates and showed the same interannual variation, thus suggesting that estimates were reliable. Mortality of young shortly after fledging and during the fall migration was high, compared with that of adults (monthly survival 0.662 in young vs. 0.989 in adults). However, mortality of young after migration was similar to that of adults (monthly survival 0.969 in young vs. 0.972 in adults). Migration survival of young varied considerably among annual cohorts (range of 0.119–0.707 over five years), and most of the mortality appeared to be natural. Survival was especially low in years when (1) temperatures at time of fledging and start of migration were low (i.e. near or below freezing), (2) mean body mass of goslings near fledging was low, or (3) mean fledging date was late. Our results suggest that migration survival of young is affected by a combination of several factors (climatic conditions, body mass, and fledging date) and that survival is reduced when one of those factors intervenes.
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Vol. 122 • No. 2