NEST PREDATION IN AN URBANIZING LANDSCAPE:THE ROLE OF EXOTIC SHRUBS

Authors


  • Corresponding Editor: J. D. Brawn

Abstract

Nest predation is considered a primary force shaping avian communities, and landscape-scale features (e.g., amount of fragmentation) are generally recognized as factors mediating nest predation. These same landscape-scale features, however, may promote invasion by exotic plants, which may, in turn, increase risk of nest predation. We examined whether the use of exotic shrubs (Lonicera spp. and Rosa multiflora Thumb.) affected nest predation across 12 riparian forest sites along a rural–urban gradient (<1– 47% urban land cover within 1 km). From 2001 to 2003, 188 Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and American Robin (Turdus migratorius) nests ≤5 m tall were monitored. Nest substrate, nest height, and distance from the forest edge were recorded for each nest, whereas nest placement and nest patch characteristics were measured only for Northern Cardinal nests (n = 68). To further assess relative rates of nest predation in native vs. exotic shrubs while controlling for nest height, distance to edge, and land use, we conducted an artificial nest experiment at two rural sites. Artificial nests (n = 79) were placed at similar heights in honeysuckle, rose, and native nest substrates along a transect 50–75 m from the forest edge. Nest substrate and landscape type alone failed to account for differences in daily mortality rates. Instead, the effect of nest substrate varied with the landscape matrix, such that nests in exotic shrubs in urbanizing landscapes were twice as likely to be depredated than nests in native substrates, irrespective of distance from the edge. Artificial nests placed in exotic shrubs in rural landscapes also suffered higher rates of nest failure than artificial nests in native substrates. Daily mortality rates were greater for nests in exotic shrubs, likely due to reduced nest height and larger shrub volume surrounding the nest. Nests in exotic shrubs were 1.5–2 m lower to the ground and within patches containing 6–9 times more exotic shrub volume. These differences may improve search efficiency of mammalian predators, which appear to be the main predators at our study sites. Based on marks present on recovered clay eggs, 68% of the predation events were attributed to mammals. These findings demonstrate that exotic shrubs can reduce nesting success of forest birds and may cause increased nest failure in urbanizing landscapes. This illustrates another way that exotic plants may diminish habitat quality and limit the capacity of urban forests to contribute to wildlife conservation; therefore, restoring the native shrub community may prove beneficial.

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