Experimental increase of predation risk induces breeding dispersal of Tengmalm's owl
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Nest predation and its avoidance are critical components of an individual's fitness and play an important role in life history evolution. Almost all studies on this topic have been observational, and thus have not been able to separate the effects of individual quality, habitat selection and predation risk of given nest sites from each other. More experimental studies on nest predation and breeding dispersal, therefore, are needed to avoid confusing interpretations of the results. In western Finland, pine marten (Martes martes) predation risk was experimentally simulated at the nests of Tengmalm's owls (Aegolius funereus) by using a caged American mink (Mustela vison) as a predator. Nests without exposure to a mink served as controls. In accordance with our predictions and earlier observational studies, males exposed to simulated predation risk increased nest-hole shift and breeding dispersal distances compared to control males. Nest-hole shift and long breeding dispersal distances probably decrease the risk of nest predation, because pine martens are known to revisit nest-holes they have found.
KeywordsBird of prey Habitat selection Mammalian predator Nest predation Predator avoidance
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