Informed renesting decisions: the effect of nest predation risk.

Research paper by Veli-Matti VM Pakanen, Nelli N Rönkä, Robert L RL Thomson, Kari K Koivula

Indexed on: 03 Dec '13Published on: 03 Dec '13Published in: Oecologia


Animals should cue on information that predicts reproductive success. After failure of an initial reproductive attempt, decisions on whether or not to initiate a second reproductive attempt may be affected by individual experience and social information. If the prospects of breeding success are poor, long-lived animals in particular should not invest in current reproductive success (CRS) in case it generates costs to future reproductive success (FRS). In birds, predation risk experienced during breeding may provide a cue for renesting success. Species having a high FRS potential should be flexible and take predation risk into account in their renesting decisions. We tested this prediction using breeding data of a long-lived wader, the southern dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii. As predicted, dunlin cued on predation risk information acquired from direct experience of nest failure due to predation and ambient nest predation risk. While the overall renesting rate was low (34.5%), the early season renesting rate was high but declined with season, indicating probable temporal changes in the costs and benefits of renesting. We develop a conceptual cost-benefit model to describe the effects of the phase and the length of breeding season on predation risk responses in renesting. We suggest that species investing in FRS should not continue breeding in short breeding seasons in response to predation risk but without time constraints, their response should be similar to species investing in CRS, e.g. within-season dispersal and increased nest concealment.