Habitat use, abundance, and persistence of Neotropical migrant birds in a habitat matrix in northeast Belize
To ensure adequate protection of nonbreeding habitats used by Neotropical migratory landbirds, we must first address questions about habitat use and quality. On the Yucatan peninsula, migrants use many habitats, several of which remain unstudied, and methodological differences preclude interhabitat comparisons based on studies to date. We used distance sampling along line transects in six habitats in northeast Belize to examine use of previously unstudied habitats (e.g., salt marsh) by Neotropical migrants and to permit comparison across habitats. We calculated unadjusted and adjusted (for detectability) density estimates for individual migrant species and for all species combined to generate hypotheses about habitat quality based on the assumption that density and quality are positively correlated. Adjusted density estimates for all migrants were highest in black mangrove habitat (1799 ± 110 ind/km2), intermediate in three forest types and milpa (range 598–802 ind/km2), and lowest in salt marsh (207 ± 32.3 ind/km2). By combining density estimates with habitat availability in our study region, we estimated that evergreen forest and black mangrove supported 70% and 9% of the region's migrant population, respectively. At the species level, five of the 10 most common species had habitat preferences (>50% detections in one habitat). Given the diversity of habitat preferences among species and apparent seasonal movements, our results indicate that Neotropical migrants in northeast Belize are dependent on a matrix of interconnected habitats.