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Indicators of avian nest predation and parental activity in a managed boreal forest: an assessment at two spatial scales

Ibarzabal, J., Desrochers, A.
Canadian journal of forest research = 2005 v.35 no.2 pp. 374-382
landscape ecology, boreal forests, nests, edge effects, wild birds, nesting, stand structure, forest stands, songbirds, forest-wildlife relations, stand density, predation, spatial variation, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, parental behavior, landscape position, Quebec
Studies of avian nesting success at the landscape level often use a single indirect measure to evaluate nest predation or parental activity. During two summers at Foret Montmorency, Quebec, we analyzed and compared three indirect measures of nest predation risk: detection of two nest predators, (1) red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus Erxleben) and (2) gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis L.), (3) depredation of bait, and direct observations of parental activity (mostly food transported by adults) at 316 stations over a 230-km2 area. We assessed the relationship between these indicators and three landscape-structure variables (total forested area, total core area, and total edge length) at two spatial scales (83 and 1610 ha). Nest predators were generally present at <30% of stations, <20% of baits were depredated, and >40% of stations exhibited evidence of broods. Bait depredation and the detection of jays or squirrels were correlated, but we found no associations between nest predation and parental activity indicators. Indicators of nest predation and parental activity were not significantly heterogeneous over the study area, despite substantial variation of landscape structure. We argue that parental activity indicators may be more reliable than nest predation indicators, but only as a coarse way to detect variation in nesting success.