Predator activity and predation on songbird nests on forest-field edges in east-central Illinois

Edward Heske, Scott K. Robinson, Jeffrey D. Brawn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We measured the activity of mammalian predators, numbers of singing male songbirds, and predation rates on nests of songbirds (152 natural, open-cup nests and 380 artificial nests) on 38250 m transects located along various types of forest-field edges in a wildlife management area in east-central Illinois. We then related these variables to each other and to measures of the vegetative structure of our transects that we anticipated might influence predator activity or predation rates on nests of birds characteristic of edge and shrubland habitats. Mammalian predators, particularly raccoons (Procyon lotor), were abundant in the wildlife area and present on all transects surveyed. We did not find significant relationships among the variables we measured. Rather, rates of nest predation were consistently high (> 70%) and generally evenly distributed around our study site. Medium-sized, generalist mammalian predators in the midwestern United States reach their highest population densities in fragmented landscapes with abundant edge habitat, particularly agricultural edges. Areas of natural habitat in these landscapes dominated by agriculture may concentrate predators and act as ecological traps for nesting birds because they attract high densities of breeding birds that are subjected to high rates of nest predation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-354
Number of pages10
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Ecological trap
  • Edge effects
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Illinois
  • Nest predation
  • Raccoons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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