Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 46:50–51; 2014


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Observations and studies of nests have been a central component of ornithology since its inception. Until recently, studies of nesting ecology were limited to human observation, making some types of information nearly impossible to obtain, such as nocturnal behavior, or difficult to study with adequate sample sizes, such as provisioning behaviors or cause of nest failure. The use of video photography to study the nesting biology of birds has exploded in the past decade, and the most recent volume of Studies in Avian Biology, Video Surveillance of Nesting Birds, has done a nice job of summarizing the history of camera use in avian studies, the types of information that can be gained from video technology at nests, and the logistics and pitfalls of deploying these systems in the field.

The stated goal of this book is to highlight the growing body of literature on the use of video surveillance technology to advance our knowledge of avian nesting ecology. A common theme throughout the book is that the knowledge gained from using video cameras at nests is continually challenging or refuting long-held assumptions about breeding and predator behaviors. The majority of the chapters in the book focus on species in grassland or shrubland systems. The book is divided into four sections: an overview and synthesis section, breeding behavior, behavioral responses to predation and predator identification, and technology.

The overview and synthesis section begins with a chapter that reviews the knowledge gained from video cameras about grassland songbirds. This chapter does a good job reviewing this history of how the technology has evolved and was used in grassland systems and summarizing the key findings from video-camera data. The second chapter takes advantage of the growing number of nest-camera datasets to show a shift from snake-dominated nest predation at southern latitudes to mammal-dominated nest predation at northern latitudes, and the authors discuss the conservation and management implications from knowing the composition of the nest-predator community. Finally, this section concludes with a chapter reviewing the use of nest cameras with gamebird species. The authors also provide recommendations for future research, which provides a useful guide for students and researchers beginning camera studies with game birds.