Selection of anthropogenic features and vegetation characteristics by nesting Common Ravens in the sagebrush ecosystem

  • Howe K
  • Coates P
  • Delehanty D
  • 38

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Abstract

Common Raven (Corvus corax) numbers and distribution are increasing throughout the sagebrush steppe, influencing avian communities in complex ways. Anthropogenic structures are thought to increase raven populations by providing food and nesting subsidies, which is cause for concern because ravens are important nest predators of sensitive species, including Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). During 2007–2009, we located raven nests in southeastern Idaho and conducted a resource selection analysis. We measured variables at multiple spatial scales for 72 unique nest locations, including landscape-level vegetation characteristics and anthropogenic structures. Using generalized linear mixed models and an information-theoretic approach, we found a 31% decrease in the odds of nesting by ravens for every 1 km increase in distance away from a transmission line. Furthermore, a 100-m increase in distance away from the edge of two different land cover types decreased the odds of nesting by 20%, and an increase in the amount of edge by 1 km within an area of 102.1 ha centered on the nest increased the odds of nesting by 49%. A post hoc analysis revealed that ravens were most likely to nest near edges of adjoining big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and land cover types that were associated with direct human disturbance or fire. These findings contribute to our understanding of raven expansion into rural environments and could be used to make better-informed conservation decisions, especially in the face of increasing renewable energy development.

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Authors

  • Kristy B. Howe

  • Peter S. Coates

  • David J. Delehanty

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