For birds, risk of nest predation can vary within a breeding season, but few data exist that explain why such variation occurs. We investigated intraseasonal variation of nest survival of the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) in Midwestern forests and tested whether four of the adults' reproductive strategies (clutch size, nest concealment, nest visitation rates, nest height) explained trends in survival across the breeding season. We also used video cameras to identify predators at 40 nests, which allowed us to determine whether variation in predation rates by category of predator (e.g., birds, mammals, snakes) explained overall seasonal variation in predation rates. The flycatchers' nest survival had a quadratic relationship with Julian date but generally increased through the breeding season. Nest height increased as the breeding season progressed but did not explain any variation in nest survival. No other reproductive trait exhibited significant intraseasonal variation. Overall, predator-specific predation rates did not vary seasonally, but there was a marginal decline in the risk of failure from avian predators as the season progressed. Of the explanations we considered, changes in predator abundance or activity were likely the primary contributor to intraseasonal variation in survival of Acadian Flycatcher nests.
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Vol. 114 • No. 2