Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Pp. 61-66 in C. A. Ribic, F. R. Thompson III, and P. j. Pietz (editors). Video surveillance of nesting birds. Studies in Avian Biology (no. 43), University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.


Copyright (c) 2012 Cooper Ornithological Society. Used by permission.


Biologists have linked nest attendance and nestling feeding rates to nest predation risk. Patterns of nest attendance also influence the success of methods designed to find nests for research use, such as rope drags. Very little has been published with regard to variation of attendance during the nesting period, but advances in video nest monitoring allow continuous data collection to provide this information. Our objectives were to (1) document attendance patterns at Western Meadowlark (Stumella neglecta) nests, (2) identify predator species of meadowlark nests, and (3) assess the effects of our camera system on nest survival. We used a solar-powered, digital video-recording system with infrared-capable cameras to monitor nests at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory in the Nebraska Sandhills during 2006. We assessed video from 10 meadowlark nests to record nest attendance data, and we monitored 37 additional meadowlark nests to estimate survival for nests without a camera observation system. Meadowlark females spent more time at the nest during incubation than during the nestling stage. The proportion of time absent did not vary among daytime temporal segments during either nest stage. Females were absent, as a proportion of time, 0.24 during the day and 0.04 during the night throughout incubation, and 0.66 and 0.13, respectively, during the nestling stage. We documented three types of predators, and we found no evidence of negative effects of nest cameras on estimates of daily nest survival. The attendance patterns we observed may contribute to temporal trends observed in daily nest survival of grassland birds. Nest cameras are a tool that can effectively contribute information to benefit efforts to improve productivity of grassland birds