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Increased nesting success of Hawaii Elepaio in response to the removal of invasive black rats

April 1, 2019

In Hawaii and other oceanic islands with few native land mammals, black rats (Rattus rattus) are among the most damaging invasive vertebrate species to native forest bird populations and habitats, due to their arboreal behavior and generalist foraging habits and habitat use. We evaluated the nesting response of Hawaii Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis; Monarchidae), a generalist insectivore, to the removal of black rats using rodenticide in a before-after-control-impact study in high- and low-elevation mesic montane habitat recovering from long-term damage from introduced ungulates and weeds. We monitored nesting success and rat abundance during 2015–2016 before applying rodenticide bait in 2017 to remove rats from two 700 × 700 m treatment plots that were paired with 2 nontreatment plots of the same size. Rat abundance was reduced by 90% during treatment, with combined variables treatment and elevation best explaining the change using GLM methods and AIC model selection. The daily survival rate (DSR) of nests (n = 191) was greater on treated plots after rodenticide application (mean ± SE = 0.980 ± 0.004 treatment; 0.964 ± 0.004 nontreatment), modeled nest success increased from 29% to 50%, and apparent nest success (number of successful nests per total nests) increased from 37% to 52%. The most informative model for predicting DSR included the effect of treatment. Predation by rats was documented at 3 of 16 nests using video surveillance, and we observed additional evidence of rat predation during in-person nest monitoring. Rats targeted adults on the nest and sometimes removed intact eggs, leaving little trace of their activity. Our results demonstrate that reducing rat predation can immediately improve the nesting success of even a common bird species in habitat with a long history of forest restoration. Sustained predator control may be critical to accelerating the recovery of native forest bird communities.

Publication Year 2019
Title Increased nesting success of Hawaii Elepaio in response to the removal of invasive black rats
DOI 10.1093/condor/duz003
Authors Paul C. Banko, Kelly Jaenecke, Robert W. Peck, Kevin W. Brinck
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Condor
Index ID 70210142
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center