Predation on artificial duck nests in a fragmented prairie landscape
Fragmentation and degradation of the natural prairie landscape by agricultural practices has resulted in the creation of numerous man-made edges and relatively small plots, which may lead to higher predation rates on nests of upland nesting ducks. We placed artificial duck nests (n = 1110) at various distances from edge to test the hypothesis that nest predation was influenced by proximity to habitat edge. In large plots (200 ha), nest survival increased with distance from edge up to 250 m, but then declined. In small plots (50 ha), no significant edge effect was detected. Overall, nest success was similar in large and small plots. Nest survival differed among habitat types. In large plots, survival was greatest in delayed hay fields, intermediate in native grassland, and lowest along rights-of-way. In small plots, survival was greater in native grassland compared with delayed hay. Overall, more mammals than birds depredated nests and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) destroyed most of the nests. In large plots, more nests along edges were depredated by striped skunks than by other mammalian predators. Similarly, along rights-of-way, striped skunks destroyed more nests than did other mammalian species.
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