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1 January 2010 Effects of Mesopredators on Nest Survival of Shrub-Nesting Songbirds
L. Mike Conner, Jessica C. Rutledge, Lora L. Smith
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Although nest predation is often the single largest source of mortality in avian populations, manipulative studies to determine predator impacts on nest survival are rare, particularly studies that examine impacts of mid-size mammalian predators (hereafter, mesopredators) on nest survival of shrub-nesting birds. We quantified nest survival and identified nest predators of shrub-nesting songbirds within 4 large (approx. 40-ha) exclosures and 4 control sites within a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem. During 2003–2006, we located and monitored 535 shrub nests (222 with videography) for 4,804 nest-days to quantify daily nest survival and document predation events. We found no support for a treatment effect, suggesting mesopredators had little impact on daily nest survival (0.9303 in controls and 0.9260 in exclosures) of shrub-nesting songbirds. For the 5 most commonly monitored species, daily nest survival within species was constant. Our analysis suggested that shrub nests were most vulnerable during the nestling stage and presence of cameras on nests increased survival with the increase in survival being more pronounced during the incubation stage. We filmed 107 nest predation events, identifying predators at 88 nests. Of these 88 nests, snakes caused 33%, red imported fire ants (hereafter fire ants, Solenopsis invicta) 28%, raptors 17%, corvids 8%, mesopredators 6%, and small mammals 8% of nest predations. Cause-specific nest predation in controls and exclosures did not differ from expectation, providing evidence that compensatory predation did not occur. Nest predators differed from expectation with regard to nest stage; fire ants and raptors only depredated nests during the nestling stage. Presence of cameras had no effect on nest abandonment. Fire ants were the most prevalent nest predator, and nest predation by fire ants was only observed on nestlings, potentially reducing likelihood of renesting. Magnitude and timing of fire ant predation suggests that fire ants may be the most influential nest predator of shrub-nesting birds within the longleaf pine ecosystem. Our data suggest that controlling mesopredators will have no effect on nest success of shrub-nesting birds within longleaf pine forests.

L. Mike Conner, Jessica C. Rutledge, and Lora L. Smith "Effects of Mesopredators on Nest Survival of Shrub-Nesting Songbirds," Journal of Wildlife Management 74(1), 73-80, (1 January 2010).
Published: 1 January 2010

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avian productivity
longleaf pine ecosystem
nest success
Pinus palustris
predator control
predator exclosure
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