Recent Paper: Cropland Edge, Forest Succession, and Landscape Affect Shrubland Bird Nest Predation

A recent paper from NCSU investigates the relationship between distance-to-edge and nest predation.

Shake, C. S., Moorman, C. E. and Burchell, M. R. (2011), Cropland edge, forest succession, and landscape affect shrubland bird nest predation. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 75: 825–835. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.101

The effects of habitat edges on nest survival of shrubland birds, many of which have  experienced significant declines in the eastern United States, have not been thoroughly studied. In 2007 and 2008, we collected data on nests of 5 shrubland passerine species in 12 early successional forest patches in North Carolina, USA. We used model selection methods to assess the effect of distance to cropland and mature forest edge on nest predation rates and additionally accounted for temporal trends, nest stage, vegetation structure, and landscape context. For nests of all species combined, nest predation decreased with increasing distance to cropland edge, by nearly 50% at 250 m from the cropland edge. Nest predation of all species combined also was higher in patches with taller saplings and less understory vegetation, especially in the second year of our study when trees were 4–6 m tall. Predation of field sparrow (Spizella pusilla) nests was lower in landscapes with higher agricultural landcover. Nest predation risk for shrubland birds appears to be greater near agricultural edges than mature forest edges, and natural forest succession may drive patterns of local extirpation of shrubland birds in early successional forest patches. Thus, we suggest that habitat patches managed for shrubland bird populations should be considerably large or wide (>250 m) when adjacent to crop fields and maintained in structurally diverse early seral stages.