Foraging behaviour of nest predators at open-cup nests of woodland passerines

Abstract

Nest predation patterns and processes cannot be understood without studying the behaviour of predators. I videotaped the behaviour of 22 species of predators at 171 depredated nests of 13 passerine species, in woodland in the Czech Republic. About 32% (60/187) of all events occurred during the night; mammals accounted for 95% (57/60) and 22% (28/127) of nocturnal and diurnal predation, respectively. About 67% (57/85) of mammalian predation, but only 3% (3/102) of avian predation, occurred during night. Multiple predations by the same species were detected in at least 7% (6/82) and 42% (37/88) of nests depredated by mammals and birds, respectively. Martens Martes martes/foina took nest content mostly all at once; birds (mainly Jay Garrulus glandarius) revisited partially depredated nest during 1–4 consecutive days. Martens stayed at the depredated nest about five times longer than Jays. Martens spent similar time at nests with eggs and nestling, while Jays stayed about twice longer at nests with eggs. Mammals consumed eggs always at the nest (23/23), but took nestlings away in at least 48% (31/64) cases. Birds took the eggs and nestling away in at least 31% (18/58) and 76% (71/94) cases, respectively. Predator visits to active nests without taking the content, repeated partial predation and revisitation of previously depredated nests suggest an effect of memory on predator’s foraging behaviour.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR 206/07/0483) and by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic (MSM 6198959212). I would like to thank T. Koutný for help with inspection of video records and P. Adamík for comments on the manuscript. All procedures used in this study comply with the current laws of the Czech Republic.

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Correspondence to Karel Weidinger.

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Communicated by T. Friedl.

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Weidinger, K. Foraging behaviour of nest predators at open-cup nests of woodland passerines. J Ornithol 151, 729–735 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-010-0512-1

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Keywords

  • Nest predation
  • Predatory behaviour
  • Predator–prey interactions
  • Activity patterns
  • Songbirds