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Nest predators of woodland open-nesting songbirds in central Europe

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I used time-lapse videotaping to identify predators of open songbird nests in fragmented deciduous woodland (nine plots, 2–10 ha each) in the Czech Republic from 2002 to 2006. I documented 22 species of predators at 171 nests of 13 species (mainly Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, Song Thrush Turdus philomelos, Common Blackbird Turdus merula, Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella and Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs). The main predators were Pine Marten Martes martes (37% of 178 predation events), Jay Garrulus glandarius (29%), Buzzard Buteo buteo (7%) and Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major (7%); mammals accounted for 48% of total predation. At least 3% of nests were depredated by multiple predators. In spite of their local abundance, Hooded Crows Corvus cornix did not present a serious threat for shrub nesting songbirds (< 1% of total predation). No predation by mice was recorded, suggesting that their importance has been overestimated in artificial nest studies. The proportional species composition of predators depended on which species occupied the monitored nest and location (study plot), but not on the year or the time of season. Corvids and raptors accounted for a relatively larger percentage of total predation of small (‘warblers’) and large (‘thrushes’) prey species, respectively, whereas carnivores were important predators of all prey species. Active nests of thrushes were only rarely robbed by Jays (< 4% of 52 events), presumably due to parental nest defence. Predation by woodpeckers was spatially clumped, probably due to individual foraging specialization. Predation by the other major predators was documented on most/all study plots.

Keywords: nest defence; nest predation; nest success; passerines; video

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2009


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