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Expansion of human enterprise has contributed to increased abundance and distribution of common ravens (Corvus corax; ravens) across sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems within western North America. Ravens are highly effective nest predators of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse), a species of high conservation concern. Sage-grouse population trends are estimated using count survey data of males attending traditional breeding grounds, known as leks. We sought to investigate associations of ravens to sage-grouse lek sites and document interactions between the sage-grouse and ravens as well as those between sage-grouse and other animals observed around leks. First, we used extensive raven point counts and sage-grouse lek observation data collected across Nevada and California, USA, from 2009–2019 to evaluate spatial associations between sage-grouse and ravens while accounting for other environmental covariates. We found that ravens were more likely to be observed closer to lek sites, especially as leks increased in size. Second, we used a subset of the lek dataset from 2006–2019 to describe behavioral changes of male sage-grouse in the presence of ravens and other predators. Our analysis indicated that ravens are attracted to lek sites and were associated with disrupting lekking sage-grouse by causing flushes or ceasing displaying behaviors. These results suggest that adult and yearling sage-grouse perceive ravens as a reason to alter breeding activity, and ravens may adversely influence their reproduction during the lekking stage. Additionally, standardized techniques to count sage-grouse on leks for population trend analyses could be biased low if raven presence during surveys is not accounted for.
Atkinson, Joseph L.; Coates, Peter S.; Brussee, Brianne E.; Dwight, Ian A.; Ricca, Mark A.; and Jackson, Pat J.
"Common Ravens Disrupt Greater Sage-grouse Lekking Behavior in the Great Basin, USA,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 15:
3, Article 12.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol15/iss3/12
Additional FilesVideoC.mp4 (66848 kB)
Appendix A: Video showing multiple common ravens (Corvus corax) causing greater-sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) lek to flush; Elko County, Nevada, USA, April 7, 2012. MP4 video format for VLC, Windows Media Player, Quicktime, etc.
AtkinsonEtAl-AppendixB.docx (15 kB)
Appendix B: Table