U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Blackwell, B.F., T.W. Seamans, M.B. Pfeiffer, and B.N. Buckingham. 2018. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) reproduction undeterred by predator scent inside nest boxes. Canadian Journal of Zoology 96(9):980-986. doi: 10.1139/cjz-2017-0299


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Indirect predator cues near nests have been shown to enhance perceived predation risk and associated antipredator behaviours in breeding animals across taxa and particularly with birds. We hypothesized that scent from the raccoon (Procyon lotor (Linnaeus, 1758)) inside nest boxes would, despite being an evolutionarily unique predator, enhance perceived risk to the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris (Linnaeus, 1758)), thus reducing use of treated sites and reproduction. During early spring, starlings selected from nest boxes treated with equal volumes of predator scent, a novel odour, or water (n = 40 boxes per treatment). We evaluated effects of treatment on reproductive traits via generalized linear models. Starlings established nest bowls in 61% of nest boxes (predator scent, n = 27 boxes; novel odour, n = 24 boxes; control (water), n = 22 boxes); clutches were laid in 68 boxes. We observed no effects of treatment on the likelihood of a clutch (≥1 egg) or nest failure. Further, we found no treatment effects on date of first egg, clutch size, or hatchling number. We conclude that starling antipredator response to enhanced, indirect risk of nest predation is contingent upon a combination of predator cues, as well as direct or indirect experience with nest predation.

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