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Superpredator proximity and landscape characteristics alters nest site selection and breeding success of a subordinate predator

Atuo, FidelisAkunke, O’Connell, TimothyJohn
Oecologia 2018 v.186 no.3 pp. 817-829
Bubo virginianus, Buteo jamaicensis, canopy, foraging, grasslands, habitats, hawks, highlands, landscapes, life history, nesting, nesting sites, nests, predation, predators, reproductive success, riparian forests, risk, shrubs, spatial variation, trees, woodlands
Selecting nesting habitat that minimizes predation risk but maximizes foraging success is one of the most important decisions in avian life history. This takes on added complexity when a predator is faced with the challenge of avoiding fellow predators. We assessed the importance of local and landscape vegetation, food abundance, and predation risk on nest site selection and nest survival in a subordinate raptor (Mississippi Kite; Ictinia mississippiensis) nesting in proximity to two superpredators, Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). All three species nested in trees in a grassland landscape. In this landscape, kites favored upland trees and shrubs, avoiding their more typical riparian forest association elsewhere in the species’ range. Compared to random conditions, kites selected nest sites with high tree density and more closed canopy in the surrounding area. Mississippi Kite selection was not related to food abundance but could be explained by the presence of superpredators (i.e., hawks and owls) selecting riparian woodland for their nests. Nest survival declined with proximity to superpredator nesting sites. Overall, our study demonstrates how landscape structure and superior predators shapes predation risk for subordinate predators. Our results emphasize the importance of spatial heterogeneity in presenting opportunities for subordinate predators to coexist in a landscape with important superpredators.