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For ground-nesting birds such as waterfowl, estimating nest survival is a crucial step in assessing population dynamics, and marking nests facilitates continuous monitoring. A conventional method for marking ground nests is to use an inconspicuous rod at the nest bowl and a wooden lathe 10 m away. Nests are visually marked to allow for greater efficiency when revisiting nests and to facilitate subsequent nest searching sessions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that common ravens (Corvus corax) and American crows (C. brachyrhynchos) might learn to recognize these nest markers, resulting in artificially inflated rates of nest predation. In 2017 in central Alberta, Canada, we compared fates of nests marked with the conventional lathe-rod combination versus only a rod. We also tested the prevalence of corvid predation of marked nests in areas with and without high observations of corvid activity, using data from a study of dabbling duck (Anas spp.) nest survival. Our results suggest that marking nests with a lathe can increase predation by corvids and that nests marked with a rod only were more likely to hatch. Evaluation and use of alternate nest-marking methods would be beneficial for future studies of ground-nesting birds in areas where corvids are common. Our work highlights the importance of re-evaluating the efficacy of well-established field methods.
O'Donovan, Emily M. and Boyce, Mark S.
"Visual Marking of Ground Nests Might Attract Corvids,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 15:
3, Article 18.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol15/iss3/18