Science of The Total Environment | VOL. 829
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Detectability and predator strategy affect egg depredation rates: Implications for mitigating nest depredation in farmlands

Publication Date Jul 1, 2022

Abstract

Predation is a major evolutionary force in animal ecology. Mechanisms by which prey coloration provides camouflage has been widely studied. However, predator response to prey camouflage and concealment has received less attention. Understanding vegetation structure effect on depredation success could help managers design strategies to mitigate the depredation of managed species (e.g., threatened or hunted). We aimed to investigate the relationship between depredation rate, nest camouflage and concealment in ground-nesting birds of farmlands, and their predators. We set up an experiment of 2576 artificial ground nests to assess the role of egg coloration (white, light green, and dark green), egg size (small, medium, and large), and vegetation structure (vegetation height and land use) in nest survival rates. We also explored the role of predator searching strategies by analysing clumped depredation and multiple depredation events. Of the nests, 34.0% were depredated, with corvids as the predators 78.5% of the time. Corvid depredation decreased by 40-60% in grasslands and spring crops above a vegetation height of 30 cm. In contrast, vegetation height and land use may be of far less importance in avoiding depredation by other predators. The probability of depredation was spatially clumped, suggesting that predators increase search effort in areas where a nest was previously encountered. Neighboring depredation and depredation repetition were more frequent in corvids than in other predators. Our study indicates that nests in veg...

Concepts

Depredation Rate Depredation Rates Probability Of Depredation Vegetation Height Nest Survival Rates Prey Coloration Ground Nests Land Use Vegetation Structure Egg Size

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