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John Faaborg

Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences
PhD, 1975 Princeton University

Office: 224 Tucker Hall
Phone: 573-882-7541
Additional: Website
Headshot of John Faaborg


Research summary

Avian ecology, behavior and conservation

Research description

My students and I work on various aspects of the ecology of birds. Much of this work can be classified as “island biogeography,” although the islands may be stands of oak within a sea of Missouri farmland. Nearly all of this work involves how bird populations respond to variations in habitats that occur over both time and space.

I have been monitoring bird populations in the Guánica Forest of Puerto Rico since 1972. Although our original focus was on how resident birds responded to drought conditions, much of our recent effort has been on patterns of abundance and survival in winter resident birds (species which winter in this forest but breed in North America). Using stable isotope analysis, we have shown that most of our wintering birds breed in the eastern United States. We find that populations and survival are best explained by patterns of rainfall on the wintering grounds for some species, but on the breeding grounds for others. Most resident species had high populations just before Hurricane George damaged the forest; these populations have been in steady decline since. Our current efforts are to understand the relationships between resident populations and survival and the local rainfall patterns.

Our work in the Midwest has primarily focused on Neotropical migrants during the breeding season. Studying both forest and grassland systems in most upper Midwest states, we have found several levels of “area-sensitivity” as habitat patches become small and/or isolated from one another. Conversely, a long-term experiment on forest management in the Ozarks (the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project, or MOFEP) shows that cutting forests in a heavily forested landscape has relatively limited negative effects on forest birds but may provide high quality habitat for second-growth species, particularly in clearcut sites. Recent spatial analyses show that some species actually prefer mature forest next to a clearing over large expanses of old-growth forest.

Students in the Avian Ecology Laboratory are often involved in these or related projects, but many students also do independent work on similar topics. Recent graduates have done studies on obligate ant-following birds in Peru, riparian bird communities in California, grassland birds and global climate change, patterns of altitudinal migration in Peru, or endangered species in Texas. Current students are examining winter resident abundance in Mexico, habitat selection in Bell's Vireos, and the interaction between snakes and nesting birds.

Select Publications

Select Publications

Stanton, R.A., Burke, A.D., Carrlson, K.M., Kesler, D.C., Faaborg, J., Thompson, F.R. Retention of radiotransmitters tail-mounted on 6 bird species (2018) Wildlife Society Bulletin, 42 (1), pp. 67-71. DOI: 10.1002/wsb.846

Jenkins, J.M.A., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Behavioral development and habitat structure affect postfledging movements of songbirds (2017) Journal of Wildlife Management, 81 (1), pp. 144-153.

Burke, A.D., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Variation in Early-Successional Habitat Use among Independent Juvenile Forest Breeding Birds (2017) Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 129 (2), pp. 235-246.

Jenkins, J.M.A., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Species-specific variation in nesting and postfledging resource selection for two forest breeding migrant songbirds (2017) PLoS ONE, 12 (6), art. no. e0179524, .

George, A.D., Connette, G.M., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Resource selection by an ectothermic predator in a dynamic thermal landscape (2017) Ecology and Evolution. Article in Press.

Jenkins, J.M.A., Hart, M., Eggert, L.S., Faaborg, J. Sex-Specific Movements in Postfledging Juvenile Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) (2017) Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 129 (4), pp. 846-850. DOI: 10.1676/17-023.1

Jenkins, J.M.A, Faaborg, J. Potential effects of Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) on host postfledging dispersal and survival (2016) The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 128(2):404-411

Jenkins, J.M.A., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Contrasting patterns of nest survival and postfledging survival in Ovenbirds and Acadian Flycatchers in Missouri forest fragments (2016) Condor, 118 (3), pp. 583-596.

Kendrick, S.W., Porneluzi, P.A., Iii, F.R.T., Morris, D.L., Haslerig, J.M., Faaborg, J. Stand-level bird response to experimental forest management in the Missouri Ozarks (2015) Journal of Wildlife Management, 79(1):50-59.

George, A.D., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Isolating weather effects from seasonal activity patterns of a temperate North American Colubrid (2015) Oecologia, 178(4):1251-1259.

George, A.D., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Using LiDAR and remote microclimate loggers to downscale near-surface air temperatures for site-level studies (2015) Remote Sensing Letters, 6(12):924-932.

Cox, W.A., Thompson, F.R., Cox, A.S., Faaborg, J. Post-fledging survival in passerine birds and the value of post-fledging studies to conservation (2014) Journal of Wildlife Management, 78(2):183-193.

Faaborg, J., Gauthreaux, S.A. Weather conditions promoting the exceptional mid-October 2005 avian migration in the eastern Caribbean (2014) Caribbean Journal of Ornithology, 27.

Hobson, K.A., Van Wilgenburg, S.L., Faaborg, J., Toms, J.D., Rengifo, C., Sosa, A.L., Aubry, Y., Brito Aguilar, R. Connecting breeding and wintering grounds of Neotropical migrant songbirds using stable hydrogen isotopes: A call for an isotopic atlas of migratory connectivity (2014) Journal of Field Ornithology, 85(3):237-257.

Joos, C.J., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. The role of territory settlement, individual quality, and nesting initiation on productivity of Bell's vireos Vireo bellii bellii (2014) Journal of Avian Biology, 45(6):584-590.

Porneluzi, P.A., Brito-Aguilar, R., Clawson, R.L., Faaborg, J. Long-term dynamics of bird use of clearcuts in post-fledging period (2014) Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 126(4):623-634.

Faaborg, J., Arendt, W.J., Toms, J.D., Dugger, K.M., Cox, W.A., Canals Mora, M. Long-term decline of a winter-resident bird community in Puerto Rico (2013) Biodiversity and Conservation, 22(1):63-75.

Cox, W.A., Thompson, F.R., Reidy, J.L., Faaborg, J. Temperature can interact with landscape factors to affect songbird productivity (2013) Global Change Biology, 19(4):1064-1074.

Morris, D.L., A. Porneluzi, P., Haslerig, J., Clawson, R.L., Faaborg, J. Results of 20 years of experimental forest management on breeding birds in Ozark forests of Missouri, USA (2013) Forest Ecology and Management, 310:747-760.

Cox, W.A., F.R. Thompson III, and J. Faaborg. 2012. Species and temporal factors affect predator-specific rates of nest predation for forest songbirds in the Midwest. The Auk 129:147-155.

Hirsch-Jacobson, R., Cox, W.A., Tewes, E.E., Thompson, F.R., Faaborg, J. Parents or predators: Examining intraseasonal variation in nest survival for a migratory passerine (2012) Condor, 114(2):358-364.

Toms, J.D., Eggert, L.S., Arendt, W.J., Faaborg, J. A genetic polymorphism in the sex-linked atp5a1 gene is associated with individual fitness in ovenbirds(seiurus aurocapilla) (2012) Ecology and Evolution, 2(6):1312-1318.

Toms, J.D., Faaborg, J., Arendt, W.J. Climate change and birds in the forgotten tropics: The importance of tropical dry forests (2012) Ibis, 154(3):632-634.

Cox, W.A., Thompson III, F.R., Faaborg, J. Landscape forest cover and edge effects on songbird nest predation vary by nest predator (2012) Landscape Ecology, 27(5):659-669.

Cox, W.A., Thompson III, F.R., Root, B., Faaborg, J. Declining brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) populations are associated with landscape-specific reductions in brood parasitism and increases in songbird productivity (2012) PLoS ONE, 7(10):e47591.

Barceló, I., Faaborg, J. Expansion of the breeding range of the blue-gray gnatcatcher(Polioptila caerulea) into western Nebraska (2012) Southwestern Naturalist, 57(4):478-479.

Cox, W.A., Thompson III, F.R., Faaborg, J. Species and temporal factors affect predator-specific rates of nest predation for forest songbirds in the midwest (2012) Auk, 129(1):147-155.

Honors & Awards

Selected honors and awards

Bell Tower of Fame Award 2013

Distinguished Faculty Award, MU Alumni Association 2005

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science 2001

Faculty-Alumni Award, MU Alumni Association 1994

Gamma Sigma Delta Award for Outstanding Teaching 1993

Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching 1992

Maxine Christopher Shutz Award and Lecture for Distinguished Teaching 1992

William T. Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching 1992

Purple Chalk Teaching Award 1991

Elected Fellow, American Ornithologists Union 1990