Nest predation in a fragmented Afrotropical forest : evidence from natural and artificial nests
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Biological conservation. - Liverpool
, p. 189-196
University of Antwerp
Nest predation accounts for a substantial share of nest failure and low reproductive success in most tropical songbirds. Normally, forest fragmentation leads to an increase in nest predation pressure due to reduced cover, fewer (and poorer) nest sites and predator influxes from the surrounding habitats. To test this hypothesis, we studied natural nesting behaviour and nest success of the white-starred robin (Pogonocichla stellata) in seven Afrotropical forest fragments differing in size and level of habitat disturbance. Based on data from 12 nests, we estimate that 29% of all natural nests initiated by the robins survive to produce fledglings across all fragments. We also conducted an experiment using artificial (plasticine) model-eggs to reveal potential predators and compare relative predation rates amongst fragments. This experiment revealed that small mammals might be the major predators on robin nests at the egg-stage. In addition, it showed that the highest incidences of nest disturbance during this stage were in the most heavily disturbed fragment. This was presumably attributable to an influx of mammalian predators from the surrounding habitats as forest degradation created suitable habitats for them. Such an infiltration was recently reported in this study site. Both nest placement and microhabitat did not significantly affect depredation levels in our experiment. This suggests that depredation was predominantly incidental (i.e., predators mainly encountered nests fortuitously while foraging for other food items), where the likelihood of encountering a nest largely depended upon the prevalence of the principal potential predators - the small mammals. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.