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Spatio-temporal variation in nesting success of colonial waterbirds under the impact of a non-native invasive predator

Brzeziński, Marcin, Chibowski, Piotr, Gornia, Joanna, Górecki, Grzegorz, Zalewski, Andrzej
Oecologia 2018 v.188 no.4 pp. 1037-1047
Neovison vison, Podiceps cristatus, adults, breeding, breeding season, breeding sites, chicks, colonial waterbirds, lakes, landscapes, mink, nesting, predation, predators, probability, shorelines, spatial variation, survival rate, temporal variation
Colonial breeding in birds provides protection from predators and may be particularly important when birds have to cope with an invasive predator. The probability of nest predation in a colony can vary depending on several factors, such as the nest’s location in the colony and the level of aggregation of nests. We studied the nesting success of colonial great crested grebes and monitored the occurrence of the non-native invasive American mink in the colony. From among 92 grebe nests, 54.3% were successful. The daily survival rate (DSR) of grebe nests was positively affected by the increasing distance between the nest and lake shoreline, and negatively affected by the increasing distance between the nest and the five nearest grebe nests. The probability of mink occurrence in the colony increased with consecutive days of the breeding season and decreased with increasing distance from the lake shoreline. The DSR of grebe nests decreased with the increasing probability of mink occurrence along the shoreline distance gradient and the day of the breeding season. The results of the study confirm the impact of the American mink on waterbirds during the breeding season but also indicate that large breeding colonies are partially safe from mink predation, and that nest accessibility and the dilution effect influence the probability of nest survival. Our data suggest that the limited access to safe breeding sites on large lakes that can supply adult grebes and their chicks with food may affect bird productivity and population numbers at the landscape level.