Food supplementation: A tool to increase reproductive output. A case study in the threatened Florida Scrub-Jay

SJ Schoech, ES Bridge, RK Boughton, Silas Reynolds, JW Atwell, R Bowman

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70 Citations (Scopus)


The federally threatened Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) has suffered dramatic losses in recent years primarily because of overdevelopment of its unique scrub habitat. Ensuring the survival of this species will require not only measures to reduce habitat loss, but also efforts to increase the numbers of birds in small scattered populations to a point at which they are resilient to extinction from stochastic population fluctuations. Here we evaluate the utility of providing supplementary food during the pre-breeding season as a means of increasing the reproductive output of Florida Scrub-jays. Data collected from 2000 to 2007 at Archbold Biological Station in south-central Florida indicate a marked effect of supplemental feeding on reproductive output. This increased output appeared to result primarily from larger clutch sizes produced by supplemented female breeders as a result of their advanced laying. Supplementation also increased offspring survival probabilities and the early laying permitted more renesting attempts. Furthermore, annual variation in several reproductive measures was dampened in supplemented birds, suggesting that supplemental feeding may reduce environmental or stochastic effects on reproductive output. Although a number of potential problems may be associated with supplemental feeding (e.g., predator entrainment and increased opportunity for disease transmission), it can serve as a valuable tool for management agencies that wish to rapidly increase local carrying capacity. In addition, food supplementation might benefit translocation efforts both by increasing the number of potential translocation candidates from a donor population and then by supplementing the newly established population to promote rapid growth. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-173
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • reproductive output
  • survival
  • food supplementation


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