Nest predation is the leading cause of reproductive failure for grassland birds of conservation concern. Understanding variation in nest predation rates is complicated by the diverse assemblage of species known to prey on nests. As part of a long-term study of grassland bird ecology, we monitored populations of predators known to prey on grassland bird nests. We used information theoretic approach to examine the predator community's association with habitat at multiple scales, including local vegetation structure of grassland patches, spatial attributes of grassland patches (size and shape), and landscape composition surrounding grassland patches (land cover within 400 and 1600 m). Our results confirmed that nest predators respond to habitat at multiple scales and different predator species respond to habitat in different ways. The most informative habitat models we selected included variability in local vegetation (CV in the density of forbs), local patch (area and edge-to-interior ratio), and landscape within a 1600 m buffer around grasslands (percent of land covered by human structures and development). As a separate question, we asked if models that incorporated information from multiple scales simultaneously might improve the ability to explain variation in the predator community. Multi- scale models were not consistently superior to models derived from variables focused at a single spatial scale. Our results suggest that minimizing human development on and surrounding conservation land and the management of the vegetation structure on grassland fragments both may benefit grassland birds by decreasing the risk of nest predation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics