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Identifying nest predators of American avocets (Recurvirostra americana) and black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) in San Francisco Bay, California

January 1, 2011

We evaluated predation on nests and methods to detect predators using a combination of infrared cameras and plasticine eggs at nests of American avocets (Recurvirostra americana) and black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) in Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, California. Each technique indicated that predation was prevalent; 59% of monitored nests were depredated. Most identifiable predation (n  =  49) was caused by mammals (71%) and rates of predation were similar on avocets and stilts. Raccoons (Procyon lotor) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) each accounted for 16% of predations, whereas gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and avian predators each accounted for 14%. Mammalian predation was mainly nocturnal (mean time, 0051 h ± 5 h 36 min), whereas most avian predation was in late afternoon (mean time, 1800 h ± 1 h 26 min). Nests with cameras and plasticine eggs were 1.6 times more likely to be predated than nests where only cameras were used in monitoring. Cameras were associated with lower abandonment of nests and provided definitive identification of predators.