How avian nest site selection responds to predation risk: testing an ‘adaptive peak hypothesis’
Article first published online: 16 AUG 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume 81, Issue 1, pages 127–138, January 2012
How to Cite
Latif, Q. S., Heath, S. K. and Rotenberry, J. T. (2012), How avian nest site selection responds to predation risk: testing an ‘adaptive peak hypothesis’. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81: 127–138. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01895.x
- Issue published online: 8 DEC 2011
- Article first published online: 16 AUG 2011
- Received 13 February 2011; accepted 12 July 2011 Handling Editor: Christiaan Both
- adaptive landscape;
- Dendroica petechia;
- habitat selection;
- Mono Lake;
- nest predation;
- nest site preference;
- Yellow Warblers
1. Nest predation limits avian fitness, so birds should favour nest sites that minimize predation risk. Nevertheless, preferred nest microhabitat features are often uncorrelated with apparent variation in predation rates.
2. This lack of congruence between theory-based expectation and empirical data may arise when birds already occupy ‘adaptive peaks’. If birds nest exclusively in low-predation microhabitats, microhabitat and nest predation may no longer be correlated even though predation ultimately shaped microhabitat selection.
3. This ‘adaptive peak hypothesis’ was tested for a population of Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia) focusing on two nest microhabitat features: concealment and height. Experimental nests measured relative predation risk both within and outside the microhabitat range typically occupied by natural nests to examine whether nest site choices made by birds restricted our ability to detect microhabitat effects on predation.
4. Within the natural range (30–80% concealment, >75 cm height), microhabitat–predation relationships were weak and inconsistent, and similar for experimental and natural nests. Over an extended range, however, experimental predation rates were elevated in exposed sites (<30% concealed), indicating a concealment-related ‘adaptive plateau’.
5. Clay egg bite data revealed a concealment effect on avian predators, and the abundance of one avian predator group correlated with nest concealment among years, suggesting these predators may cue birds to modulate nest concealment choices.
6. This study demonstrates how avian responses to predation pressure can obscure the adaptive significance of nest site selection, so predation influences may be more important than apparent from published data.