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Duck nest depredation, predator behavior, and female response using video

July 2, 2018

Depredation plays an important role in determining duck nest success and predator and female duck behavior during nest depredation can influence nest fate. We examined depredation of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and gadwall (A. strepera) nests in Suisun Marsh, California, USA, in 2015–2016 with continuous infrared video monitoring to identify nest predators and characterize predator and female duck behavior during depredation events. We recorded predators at 44% of 147 nests monitored. Raccoons (Procyon lotor) were the most frequent predator observed at nests (40% of nests visited and 53% of depredated eggs) followed by striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis; 27% and 27%), coyotes (Canis latrans; 4% and 9%), common ravens (Corvus corax; 4% and 9%), gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer catenifer; 19% and 0%), and western yellow‐bellied racers (Coluber constrictor mormon; 1% and 0%). The number of eggs depredated per depredation bout varied among predators (raccoons: 7.3 eggs; skunks: 2.5; coyotes: 7.4; ravens: 7.7; and snakes: 0.0). Mammal depredation occurred between 1600 and 0400, whereas snakes and ravens were observed at nests during the day (snakes: 1000–2100; ravens: 1700). Females flushed from nests immediately before predator arrival ( = 29.0 ± 16.6 [SD] sec), and this timing did not vary among predators. However, the length of nest depredation bouts varied among predators. Nest visits by gopher snakes were longer (18.6 ± 19.4 min) than depredation bouts by other predators (12.3 ± 10.7 min), but snakes did not successfully consume any eggs. Females took more time to return to nests when nests were depredated by raccoons (239 ± 137 min), whereas females returned more quickly when nests were visited by skunks (81 ± 163 min) or gopher snakes (15 ± 128 min). Partial clutch depredation occurred at 15% of depredated nests, but only 23% of partially depredated nests successfully hatched ≥1 egg. Our results indicate that predator type and behavior can influence female behavior and nest fate, and that management actions that reduce the effectiveness of raccoons and skunks encountering waterfowl nests may benefit these nesting populations.

Publication Year 2018
Title Duck nest depredation, predator behavior, and female response using video
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21444
Authors Rebecca Croston, Joshua T. Ackerman, Mark P. Herzog, Jeffrey D. Kohl, C. Alex Hartman, Sarah H. Peterson, Cory T. Overton, Cliff L. Feldheim, Michael L. Casazza
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70198336
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center