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Abstract

Nest predation is a crucial factor influencing breeding success in birds. One possible way to protect nests is to modify parental activity in the vicinity of the nest. Here, we provide experimental evidence for an adjustment of incubation pattern during periods when there is an increased risk of nest predation in a small passerine. We compared the behaviour of incubating meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis) females during presentations of stuffed dummies of a nest predator (the magpie Pica pica) and a harmless intruder (the crossbill Loxia curvirostra) and during an undisturbed control incubation period. Females significantly decreased their activity in the presence of the nest predator. Specifically, after being flushed out, they returned to the nest later and moved to and from the nest less than when the harmless intruder was present. These results document the ability of birds to assess the nest predation risk and adjust their appropriate incubation strategy.