The relative impacts of nest predation and brood parasitism on seasonal fecundity in songbirds

Kenneth A. Schmidt, Christopher J. Whelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations

Abstract

The impacts of nest predation and brood parasitism on the seasonal fecundity of birds are strongly dependent on the number of nesting attempts, and thus seasonal fecundity is responsive to behavioral traits that increase the number of opportunities to nest. We developed simple models to investigate the relative impacts of nest predation and brood parasitism on seasonal fecundity in songbirds. In particular, we asked to what extent songbirds can ameliorate the negative effects of high nest predation and brood parasitism often typical of fragmented, urbanized, and agricultural landscapes through (1) renesting following predation, (2) abandoning and renesting following parasitism, and (3) double brooding - renesting following a successful brood. Our model assigned probabilities to all possible fates of breeding females and calculated seasonal fecundity by summing up the individual probabilities. We analyzed the model through the use of fecundity isopleths, which allow one to visually determine the impact of predation and parasitism simultaneously over the entire range of probabilities. Our analysis indicates that (1) nest predation has a greater impact on seasonal fecundity over a larger range of parameter space than does parasitism, especially when brood loss due to parasitism is low; (2) songbird populations experiencing nest predation probabilities typical of fragmented landscapes (>0.65) are unlikely to be self-sustaining; and (3) amelioration of nest predation through frequent renesting or double brooding may be insufficient to establish self-sustaining populations. These results suggest that predator control should be at least as high a priority as parasitism control particularly for species that suffer moderate to low brood reduction due to parasitism and that are single-brooded. Programs aimed solely at managing cowbirds likely will be of limited success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-57
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1999

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