European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 249–258 | Cite as

Predators and livestock reduce bird nest survival in intensive Mediterranean farmland

  • Pedro BejaEmail author
  • Stefan Schindler
  • Joana Santana
  • Miguel Porto
  • Rui Morgado
  • Francisco Moreira
  • Ricardo Pita
  • António Mira
  • Luís Reino
Original Paper


High nest predation is one of the factors potentially driving farmland bird declines, particularly in the case of ground-nesting species. Accordingly, recent calls have been made to address predation in agri-environment schemes, but this is hindered by limited understanding of how processes operating at different scales affect predation patterns and how additional factors such as livestock trampling contribute to reduced nest survival. Using an artificial nest experiment, we assessed how field management, landscape composition and configuration, and the abundance of potential avian predators and mammalian carnivores affected predation and trampling rates in grassland fields (pastures and fallows) embedded in intensive Mediterranean farmland. Mean predation and trampling rates per field were 0.18 ± 0.23 SD and 0.12 ± 0.17 SD, respectively. However, there was strong spatial variation, with high nest losses (>50 %) occurring in about one quarter of the fields. Variation in failure rates was mainly related to livestock grazing and predator abundances, while the effects of landscape context were negligible. Predation and trampling rates were highest in fields with short swards. Predation rate was positively related to the abundance of Egyptian mongooses and dogs. To increase nest survival, agri-environment schemes designed for ground-nesting birds should contribute for maintaining low stocking density. Further evaluation is required on the need for controlling populations of fast-expanding generalist predators such as mongooses.


Agri-environment schemes Artificial nest experiment Grassland bird Grazing Nest predation Trampling 



The study was funded by FCT through projects POCTI/BSE/38601/2001 and PTDC/AGR-AAM/102300/2008, and fellowships to JS (SFRH/BD/63566/2009), MP (SFRH/BD/28974/2006), and LR (SFRH /BPD/62865/2009). We thank the thorough review of the manuscript by the Associate Editor and three anonymous referees.

Supplementary material

10344_2013_773_MOESM1_ESM.docx (576 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 575 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro Beja
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan Schindler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joana Santana
    • 1
  • Miguel Porto
    • 1
  • Rui Morgado
    • 3
    • 4
  • Francisco Moreira
    • 3
  • Ricardo Pita
    • 5
  • António Mira
    • 5
  • Luís Reino
    • 1
  1. 1.EDP Biodiversity Chair, CIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation and Landscape EcologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.CEABN/InBio, Centro de Ecologia Aplicada “Professor Baeta Neves”, Instituto Superior de AgronomiaUniversidade Técnica de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.ERENA–Ordenamento e Gestão de Recursos Naturais SALisbonPortugal
  5. 5.CIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Pólo de ÉvoraUniversidade de ÉvoraEvoraPortugal

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