A landscape perspective of bird nest predation in a managed boreal black spruce forest

Marylène BOULET, Marcel DARVEAU & Louis BÉLANGER, Centre de recherche en biologie forestière, Faculté de Foresterie et de Géomatique, Université Laval, Sainte-Foy, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada.

Several landscape level studies have reported that bird nest predation increases as forest cover decreases. These studies have mainly been conducted in agricultural or urban regions. However, few studies have explored relationships between forest cover and nest predation in boreal forests managed for timber harvesting. In 1997 and 1998, we evaluated bird nest predation in a mosaic of clearcuts and forest remnants dominated by black spruce (Picea mariana [Mill.] B.S.P.) and located north of Lake Saint-Jean, Québec. We used a 7 km x 9 km grid of sampling points to determine nest predation at four landscape scales (local vegetation, and 250 m, 500 m, and 1000 m radii around sampling points). Artificial nests (ground and arboreal) containing a common quail (Coturnix coturnix L.) egg and a plasticine egg were used to calculate predation pressure and to identify nest predators. Nest predation was high over the entire study area. Dominant predators were the gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis L.) and the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus Erxleben). Depredation by squirrels was influenced by local variables in 1997 and by landscape variables in 1998. In the latter case, depredation by squirrels increased as spruce cover increased. Depredation by gray jays was positively related to water body area and jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) cover. Squirrels preyed more on ground nests than on arboreal nests, while gray jays preyed almost exclusively on arboreal nests. We conclude that these predators probably impose different threats to different songbird species in boreal black spruce forests. Our results show that, in the short term, timber harvesting did not seem to increase predation in a boreal black spruce forest.

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