American Ornithological Society
Birds can hide from visual predators by locating nests where there is cover and from olfactory predators where habitat features create updrafts, high winds, and atmospheric turbulence, but sites optimal for hiding from visual and olfactory predators often differ. We examined how Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) balance the dual needs of hiding from both visual and olfactory predators on Parker Mountain, Utah, where the Common Raven (Corvus corax) is the main visual predator and the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) and American badger (Taxidea taxus) are the main olfactory predators. By comparing nest sites to random sites during 2005 and 2006, we found that sage-grouse nest at sites where their nests were obscured from visual predators but were exposed to olfactory predators. To validate these findings, we replicated the study in southwest Wyoming during 2008. Again, we found that visual obscurity at nest sites was greater than at control sites but olfactory obscurity was less. Our results indicate that Greater Sage-Grouse select nest sites where they will be concealed from visual predators but at the cost of locating nests where they are exposed to olfactory predators. In southwest Wyoming, we found that olfactory predators (mammals) and visual predators (birds) depredated an equal number of nests. By selecting nest sites with visual obscurity, Greater Sage-Grouse have reduced the threat from visual predators to where it was similar to the threat posed by olfactory predators.
Conover, M. R., J. S. Borgo, R. E. Dritz, J. B. Dinkins, and D. K. Dahlgren. 2010. Greater sage-grouse select nest sites to avoid visual predators but not olfactory predators. Condor 112: 331-336.