Nest predation and habitat change interact to influence Siberian jay numbers


  • Sönke Eggers,

  • Michael Griesser,

  • Tommy Andersson,

  • Jan Ekman

S. Eggers, M. Griesser and J. Ekman, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Dept of Population Biology, Uppsala Univ., Norbyvägen 18D, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden. Present address for SE: Department of Zoology, Stockholm Univ., SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden. ( – T. Andersson, Dept of Physics, Uppsala Univ., Lägeruddsvägen 1, SE-751 21 Uppsala, Sweden.


We studied Siberian jays, breeding in northern Sweden, to examine the potential for interactions between nest predation and reduced vegetation heterogeneity around nest sites to cause a decrease in jay numbers. Parent behaviour and nests are highly cryptic in the species. Our 12-year data showed, however, that nests had a probability of only 0.46 to be successful and produce at least one nestling. Nest predation was intense and a main cause of nest failure. All predators that could be identified were visually oriented hunters, mostly other corvids able to colonize taiga forest only close to human settlements. Consistent with the idea that predators used visual cues, nest predation increased with parental activity, which suggests that predators used parental provisioning trips to locate nests. Furthermore, a reduction in daily nest survival rates with decreasing amount of nesting cover was more pronounced in areas with high corvid activity as predicted when cover mediates the hunting efficiency of visual oriented predators. Declining temperatures interacted with the effects of habitat characteristics to further reduce daily nest survival rates suggesting that parents were not able to increase nest visitation rates to satisfy the higher energy demands of their nestlings without endangering the nest. Our results identify a mechanism through which predation and human-induced reduction in nesting cover on a larger scale may interact to cause a reduction in Siberian jay numbers larger than expected from habitat loss alone.