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Variation in nest predation among arid-zone birds

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I examined the nesting habits and success of 11 co-existing species in an arid, sub-tropical habitat in South Africa. Nesting success ranged from 3.5% to 75.4% among species, with predation by mammals and snakes accounting for 94% of nest losses. Differences in predator avoidance behaviour (deserting the nest vs sitting tight) may explain markedly different daily nest predation risk experienced by the Double-banded Courser Rhinoptilus africanus (0.5%) and Namaqua Sandgrouse Pterocles namaqua (9.2%). Nest predation was inversely related to nest density, but this reverse density dependence may reflect a seasonal effect, as predation decreased as the breeding season progressed from spring to mid-summer. Overall, daily egg predation rates were higher than daily nestling predation rates among nine altricial species, contrary to the widely-held view that increased activity at the nest during the nestling period increases predation risk. The prediction of higher daily nest predation rates on ground-nesting species than on shrub/tree-nesting species in an open habitat was supported. Among ground-nesting species, territorial residents suffered significantly lower daily nest predation rates than nomads, suggesting that residents may use experience of local predator activity to place their nests in safer sites.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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