Since mortality is likely high during the first winter after fledging, a productivity estimate isn't a perfect measure of how many individuals join the population each year. However, it is a good means of comparing the number of young produced by nesting pelicans in different habitats or different areas, which can help us to understand population trends across a range of conditions. Besides measuring productivity at different colonies, we are also comparing ground-nesting to shrub-nesting pelicans to see if chick survival increases with nest height, as has been observed in Louisiana.
In addition, we are focusing our efforts on collecting diet samples from chicks and conducting observations of feeding rates and nest attendance. These data will complement productivity and spatial data to help us understand where and how pelicans choose to forage,as well as how these decisions affect their ability to successfully raise chicks.
This all means we get to spend a lot of time watching pelican chicks, which is a pretty entertaining way to spend a few hours.