Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 9–15 | Cite as

Antipredation role of clumped nesting by marsh-nesting red-winged blackbirds

  • J. Picman
  • M. Leonard
  • A. Horn


Red-winged blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus, breed in marshes in high densities and their nests are frequently clumped. Because predation is consistently the most important cause of redwing nesting mortality, high densities of breeding individuals could be an anti-predation adaptation. In our study site predation by marsh wrens, Cistothorus palustris, was the main cause of redwing nesting losses. In situations when marsh wrens were near, predation rates on redwing nests decreased with increasing female density. Group life could reduce predation because of improved nest defense, selfish herd effects, or predator dilution effects. We differentiated between these possibilities by introducing experimental colonies consisting of 3, 6, and 9 artificial nests near and away from active redwing nests. The experimental colonies near active nests suffered less predation, but predation rates were not correlated with colony size or a nest's location within the colony. Therefore, the advantage of group life in this population is probably mutual nest protection.


Predation Rate Active Nest Artificial Nest Nest Defense Experimental Coloni 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Picman
    • 1
  • M. Leonard
    • 1
  • A. Horn
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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