Nest height, nest concealment, and predator type predict nest predation in superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus)

  • Colombelli-Négrel D
  • Kleindorfer S
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Three factors and their interaction effects are increasingly recognized as important determinants of nest predation: nest
concealment, nest height, and predator type. The risk of nest predation is predicted to vary across these variables because
of nest detectability and accessibility. In general, however, few studies examine how these three variables interact in relation
to nest predation, focusing instead on either nest concealment or nest height (whereby predator identity is usually not known).
In this study, we examine the role of nest concealment and nest height for nest survival using both artificial and natural
nests in the superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus). We indirectly identified potential predators through marks left on artificial eggs and footprints left on tracking tunnels.
Predation level at artificial nests was lower than at natural nests, and this could be due to a failure of some nest predators
to locate cryptic nests in the absence of cues provided by parental activity. Our results supported the prediction that exposed
and concealed nests have different levels of nest predation, which can be explained by variation in predator type. Visual
predators were only detected at exposed nests, and survival from visual predators was lower for high nests that were also
exposed. However, olfactory predators were detected irrespective of nest height or nest concealment. Because rodents use olfaction
to locate nests, this could explain the lack of association between nest concealment and predation outcome at low nests. In
addition, rodent footmarks near nests were significantly associated with rodent tooth marks on eggs.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Artificial eggs
  • Nest height
  • Predator type
  • Tracking tunnels

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  • Diane Colombelli-Négrel

  • Sonia Kleindorfer

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