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Abstract

Nest predation is one of the most significant limitations for successful breeding of tropical passerines. Thus, parental strategies may include choosing appropriate nest sites and behaving in ways that minimize predation. Habitat characteristics that may influence nest success include degree of nest concealment, proximity to habitat edge, plant architecture as well as several others cited in the literature. However, few studies have examined display behavior as a factor that could also influence nest survival. We experimentally tested whether sexual motor displays served as a cue for visually oriented predators to locate artificial nests in a population of blue-black grassquits Volatinia jacarina, a Neotropical passerine that exhibits a complex sexual display and is subjected to elevated rates of nest predation. We also evaluated the effect of nest substrate on survival. Predation rate was higher for nests within territories of displaying males relative to areas without displaying males and for nests placed in shrubs relative to grasses. Predation increased sharply in the third experimental replicate, at the end of the breeding season, which suggests that predators may develop a search image for nests or may become more abundant during specific periods of the season. Avian predators appear to be the most important nest predators. Results suggest that there may be a trade-off between the increase in fitness derived from sexual displays of males to attract potential mates and the decrease owing to predation of active nests within their territories.