Intense predation of non-colonial, ground-nesting bird eggs by corvid and mammalian predators

Ekanayake, Kasun B., Whisson, Desley A., Tan, Laura X. L. and Weston, Michael A. 2015, Intense predation of non-colonial, ground-nesting bird eggs by corvid and mammalian predators, Wildlife research, vol. 42, no. 6, pp. 518-528, doi: 10.1071/WR15080.

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Title Intense predation of non-colonial, ground-nesting bird eggs by corvid and mammalian predators
Author(s) Ekanayake, Kasun B.
Whisson, Desley A.ORCID iD for Whisson, Desley A.
Tan, Laura X. L.
Weston, Michael A.ORCID iD for Weston, Michael A.
Journal name Wildlife research
Volume number 42
Issue number 6
Start page 518
End page 528
Total pages 11
Publisher CSIRO
Place of publication Melbourne, Vic.
Publication date 2015
ISSN 1035-3712
Summary Context Loss of eggs to predators is a major cause of reproductive failure among birds. It is especially pronounced among ground-nesting birds because their eggs are accessible to a wide range of predators. Few studies document the main causes of clutch fate of ground-nesting birds. Aims The main objective of the present study was to identify the major egg predator of red-capped plovers (Charadrius ruficapillus). We also investigated the effectiveness of the following two primary strategies available to the plovers to avoid egg predation: (1) the placement of clutches under vegetative cover and (2) avoiding predators by nesting outside the peak season of predator occurrence. Methods Remote-sensing cameras were deployed on plover nests to identify egg predators and nests were monitored over four breeding seasons to document reproductive success and fate. An experiment using false clutches with model eggs investigated the influence of nest cover on the risk of egg predation throughout the year. Line-transect surveys were conducted to estimate the abundance of egg predators in and around the wetlands. Key results The little raven (Corvus mellori) was the major egg predator identified in 78.6% of red-capped plover clutches and in 92.4% of false clutches that were camera-monitored. The hatching success of plover eggs was not influenced by nest cover (P≤0.36), but model egg survival in false clutches improved significantly with the presence of nest cover (P≤0.02). The abundance of little ravens increased during the plover breeding season and was highly negatively correlated with false clutch survival (rpearson≤-0.768, P≤0.005). Conclusions Little ravens were the major predator of red-capped plover eggs and their abundance increased significantly during the plover breeding season. Any influence of nest cover on hatching success of eggs may have been masked by the extremely high rate of egg loss associated with the increased little raven abundance during the plover breeding season. Implications The high rate of egg predation is likely to have negative consequences on the local red-capped plover population, suggesting management is warranted. Little raven populations have expanded and, thus, their impact as egg predators needs to be investigated especially on threatened species. Journal compilation
Language eng
DOI 10.1071/WR15080
Field of Research 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
Socio Economic Objective 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, CSIRO
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