Authors: T. J. Conkling

Predation is the leading cause of nest failure in songbirds. My study identified nest predators of black-capped vireos and white-eyed vireos, quantified the activity of potential predator species, examined the relationships between vegetation and nest predators, and examined the relationship between nest predation and parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds. In 2008 and 2009 I monitored black-capped and white-eyed vireo nests on privately-owned properties in Coryell County and black-capped vireo nests on Kerr WMA in Kerr County and at Devils River State Natural Area in Val Verde County (2009 only). I monitored vireo nests using a video camera system to identify predators and nest fate. I also collected at-nest vegetation measurements including nest height, distance to nearest habitat edge, and nest concealment. Additionally, I sampled potential predator activity at a subset of black-capped vireo and white-eyed vireo nests in Coryell County using camera-trap bait stations and herptofaunal traps.

I monitored 117 black-capped vireo nests and 54 white-eyed vireo nests. Forty-two percent of black-capped vireo and 35% of white-eyed vireo nests failed due to predation. I recorded >10 total predator species and 37 black-capped vireo and 15 white-eyed vireo nest predation events. Snakes (35%) and cowbirds (29%) were the most frequently identified nest predators; however, major predator species varied by location. I observed no significant relationship between nest fate (fledge vs. fail) and nest concealment or distance to edge for either vireo species. Nest height, concealment and distance to edge may relate to predator species in Coryell Co. for snake species, and Kerr for avian species. Additionally, I observed no difference between the predator activity and the fate of the nest.

Both vireos have multiple nest predator species. Additionally, multiple cowbird predations demonstrate this species may have multi-level impacts on vireo productivity, even with active cowbird management. Vegetation structure and concealment may also affect predator species. However, the activity of other predator species near active nests may not negatively affect nest success.

Suggested Citation

Conkling, T. J. 2010. Analysis of the black-capped vireo and white-eyed vireo nest predator assemblages. Thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.