Predator-mediated interactions between and within guilds of nesting songbirds: Experimental and observational evidence

Kenneth A. Schmidt, Christopher J. Whelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Apparent competition (i.e., a mutually negative indirect interaction between prey species through shared predation) arises when predator abundance or foraging effort increases with total prey availability. We review and formalize several patch-use models from which we derive predictions for how the degree of coupling (from the predators' perspective) between nesting guilds (defined as species nesting within a vegetation stratum) affects the outcome of shared predation. We then determine which model best applies to nest predation on woodland songbirds and artificial nests by a natural population of raccoons. Using artificial nests, we showed that increasing the density of nests placed either in shrubs or on the ground increased overall predation (i.e., proportion of nests) on both types. We also tested for apparent competition between American robin and wood thrush, two coexisting woodland songbirds that commonly nest within the shrub stratum. Nest predation increased for wood thrushes but not robins as the combined density of robin and thrush nests within two individual substrate types, Lonicera and Rhamnus, increased. Thus, we documented apparent competition both within and among nesting guilds. We discuss the possible relevance of this interaction in determining species diversity, particularly in the light of increasing generalist nest predators through anthropogenically driven changes in human-altered landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-402
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Competition
  • Foraging theory
  • Predation
  • Raccoon
  • Resource partitioning
  • Songbirds


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