Mice in space: Space use predicts the interaction between mice and songbirds

Kenneth A. Schmidt, Richard S. Ostfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The density-dependence inherent in population interactions can be undermined when the behavior or distribution of predators is not predictable from their population density. For instance, unequal use of space by consumers can lead to improper characterizations of their interaction with prey if based solely on population density. Instead, quitting harvest rates (QHRs) from resource patches might provide a useful alternative index of predator impacts. We tested whether space use would predict predation rates of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) on experimental songbird nests and whether QHRs or mouse density would best predict the proportion of space used. Our results indicated that space use was an accurate predictor of nest predation rates. Moreover, space use was significantly related to QHRs, but not to mouse density. In our study, space use is the outcome of behavioral mechanisms that do not appear to scale with or lag behind consumer density. In such cases, we may expect a disjuncture between population density and species interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3276-3283
Number of pages8
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Behavioral indicators
  • Giving-up density (GUD)
  • Interaction strength
  • Nest predation rates
  • Peromyscus leucopus
  • Quitting harvest rates (QHR)
  • Space use
  • White-footed mouse


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