Nests of many over-water nesting birds are frequently subjected to wave action from repeated windstorms. Colonial grebes often lose over 50% of nests in any particular breeding season to wave action, depending on factors such as storm activity and habitat quality. We examined nest structure survival in a colony of Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) in relation to wave action due to wind. Initial nests were 66% successful in hatching at Lake Christina, Minnesota, in 2005 compared to only 48% in 2006. In 2005, initial nests that survived and hatched young were closer to the central tuber-mat of the colony and closer to individual bulrush island centers than were nests lost during storms. In 2006, a year of high storm activity, nests located near the colony edge most prone to wave attack were less likely to last the season and produce young than were nests in central or more protected areas of the colony. Buffer zones of vegetation surrounding the nest were the single most important factor in attenuating waves. Buffer zone stem density was less important than the amount of buffer between nest and wave attack, which may be a major factor colony founders select for when evaluating nest placement sites within a colony.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3