Predation of artificial ground nests in Australian tropical savannas: inverse edge effects

Depredation of artificial ground nests was examined in tropical savanna in northern Australia to assess potential predation pressures on nests of the partridge pigeon (Geophaps smithii), a declining tropical granivore. Predation rates were examined at two sites, Kakadu National Park (which supported a relatively high density of partridge pigeons) and Berry Springs (which had greater habitat fragmentation and comparatively low partridge pigeon density). The effects of distance from road, understorey structure, topography and nest-microsite concealment on nest predation rates were examined. Artificial-nest predation rates were greater at 150 m from roads than <1 m from the roadside. Predation rates did not vary with understorey structure, topography, or level of nest concealment. There was marked variation between sites, with predation levels at Kakadu more than double those recorded for Berry Springs. Discerning predator identity, or even the size of a predator, from marks left in clay eggs proved difficult and was possible for ~35% of predation events. Of these, 42% of predation events involved predators of a size we considered too small to take a natural partridge pigeon nest. We suggest that extrapolation from artificial to natural ground-nest predation rates be undertaken with caution for landscapes such as Australia?s tropical savanna, which supports a high diversity and abundance of small potential predators of artificial nests. There was no evidence of predation by birds, and the methodology proved inadequate for identifying predation by feral cats (Felis catus).

Author Fiona J. Fraser and Peter J. Whitehead
Date 05/07/2005
Year 2005
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 32
Number 4
Pages 313-319
Notes Notes
Region NT