Perilous choices: landscapes of fear for adult birds reduces nestling condition across an urban gradient
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Predator fear effects influence reproductive outcomes in many species. In non-urban systems, passerines often respond to predator cues by reducing parental investment, resulting in smaller and lighter nestlings. Since trophic interactions in urban areas are highly altered, it is unclear how passerines respond to fear effects in human-altered landscapes. Nestlings of passerines in urban areas also tend to be smaller and lighter than their rural counterparts and are often exposed to high densities of potential predators yet experience lower per capita predation—the predation paradox. We suggest fear effects in urban habitats could be a significant mechanism influencing nestling condition in birds, despite lowered predation rates. We manipulated exposure of nesting birds to adult-consuming predator risk in residential yards across a gradient of urbanization to determine the relative influence of urbanization and fear on nestling condition. We found nestlings had reduced mass in nests exposed to predator playbacks as well as in more urban areas. Despite lower per capita predation rates in urban areas, fear effects from increased predator densities may influence passerine fitness through reduced nestling condition. As urban development expands, biodiversity conservation hinges on a deeper mechanistic understanding of how urbanization affects reproductive outcomes.
Keywordsbehavior; birds; fear effects; house wren; non-lethal effects; Troglodytes aedon; urban gradient; urbanization
Grade, Aaron M.; Lerman, Susannah B.; Warren, Paige S. 2021. Perilous choices: landscapes of fear for adult birds reduces nestling condition across an urban gradient. Ecosphere. 12(7): e03665. 13 p. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.3665.