Spatial heterogeneity in predator activity, nest survivorship, and nest-site selection in two forest thrushes

Kenneth A. Schmidt, Richard S. Ostfeld, Kristina N. Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The ability of prey to find and use predator-free space has far-reaching consequences for their persistence and interactions with their predators. We tested whether nest survivorship of the ground-nesting veery (Catharus fuscescens) and shrub-nesting wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) was related to the local absence of a major nest predator, the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). Mouse-free space was defined by trap stations that failed to trap a mouse during the avian breeding season (-May through July). In addition, mouse activity was quantified at individual trap stations based on the number of captures during the same period (six 2.25-ha trapping grids, each containing 121 trap stations trapped repeatedly throughout the summer between 1998 and 2002.) Annual mouse-free space was correlated with other measures of mouse activity based on trapping data. Both mouse-free space and activity metrics were significantly related to annual rates of nest predation (i.e., nest daily mortality rate) in veery but not wood thrush. Likewise, mouse-free space and mouse activity within the nest neighborhood (∼30×30 m2 surrounding each nest) was significantly related to nest survivorship in veery but not wood thrush. More trap stations had consistently greater (hotspots) and lesser (coldspots) mouse activity than expected by chance, and veeries were significantly more likely to nest near stations that had below the grid-average trapping success. Our study thus documented significant spatial variability in predator activity and its relationship to nest predation and nest-site selection in a ground-nesting songbird.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-29
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Nest predation
  • Predator-free space
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Spatial heterogeneity in predator activity
  • Veery


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