Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Joseph J. Fontaine

Date of this Version



Simonsen, V.L. 2018. Examining Patterns in Nest Predation using Artificial Nests. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Joseph J. Fontaine. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2018.

Copyright (c) 2018 Victoria Simonsen


The use of artificial nests to study the predation of avian nests has faced disregard by ecologists due to inconsistencies found between the survival rates of real and artificial nests across studies and reviews. The negative perception of artificial nests providing an inconsistent assessment of survival has thus fostered the perception that artificial nests are a secondary option to be used to overcome logistical hurdles associated with achieving sufficient sample sizes in systems where study species are rare or elusive, or as merely a preliminary method to study predation across gradients. We argue that the greatest mistake ecologists have made with artificial nests is not the flaws within poorly designed studies, but rather the failure to look for patterns in inconsistencies between properly designed studies. Therefore, we conducted a case study to demonstrated the utility of artificial nests as a tool to consistently measure inherent nest predation risk across a set of manipulated experimental treatments. We also conducted a meta-analysis to examine the patterns of real and artificial nest survival across several gradients theorized to influence nest survival (e.g., absolute latitude). We used only data from peer-reviewed journal articles where researchers recorded the survival of both real and artificial nests, to demonstrate that when extraneous variation is reduced inconsistencies give way to prominent patterns in survival.

Advisor: Joseph J. Fontaine