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Title: Factors affecting predation at songbird nests in old fields
Author: Burhans, Dirk E.; Dearborn, Donald; Thompson, Frank R. III; Faaborg, John
Publication: Journal of Wildlife Management. Vol. 66, no. 1 (2002).:p.240-249.
Key Words: Nests, Predation, Microhabitats, Birds, Phenology, Snakes, Seasonal variation
Abstract: We determined the effects of microhabitat, year, weather, time of season, stage of the nesting cycle, and brood parasitism on nest predation from a 7-year dataset on field sparrows (Spizella pusilla) and indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea) in central Missouri, USA. Year, site, and the interaction of species and 2-week interval of the season were important factors explaining nest predation. The only microhabitat variable that consistently explained predation was nest height: nests over 3 m high almost always fledged. Validation of the model parameters on an independent set of nests resulted in proper categorization (e.g., lost or not lost to predation) of 61.5% of nests. In models testing weather and temporal effects, year was related to daily survival for indigo buntings, and 2-week intervals of the season explained daily survival for both species. Nest predation was higher overall in the nestling stage than in the incubation stage for indigo buntings, and indigo buntings parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) experienced higher predation than nonparasitized buntings. Temporal patterns within the breeding season were consistent between years, and between-year variance appeared to be important, whereas microhabitat was generally unimportant. Research on the mechanisms underlying temporal variability in nest mortality due to predation may identify management options to reduce nest predation.
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