For many avian species, predation is the leading cause of nest failure. However, relationships between predator abundance and nest predation often differ across spatial scales. We examined the relationship between environmental characteristics in meadows and mammalian predator activity, the relationship between predator activity at 2 spatial scales, and the probability of nest predation of willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii), dusky flycatchers (Empidonax oberholseri), and yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia) in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA. Environmental characteristics associated with the detection of nest predators varied depending on species. Douglas's squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) and chipmunks (Tamias spp.) were associated with characteristics common along edges of meadows; short-tailed weasels (Mustela erminea) were associated with willows, whereas mice (Peromyscus maniculatus, Reithrodontomys megalotis, and Microtus spp.) and long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata) were distributed throughout the meadows. The probability of predation of willow and dusky flycatcher nests increased with increasing short-tailed weasel activity, and the probability of predation of yellow warbler nests increased with increasing activity of chipmunks and short-tailed weasels. Variation in the occurrence of predator species in different areas of the meadows likely influences the probability of nest predation by each species and the nesting success of birds. Identifying factors that influence the distribution and abundance of common nest predators will likely be integral to the development of conservation efforts to increase the reproductive success of some bird species.
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Vol. 70 • No. 2