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Experimental analysis of the short-term consequences of using nest platforms to manage populations of the common loon (Gavia immer)

Mager, J.N., Walcott, C., and W.H. Piper
Institution if not ONU: 
Cornell University
Animal Behavior, Ornithology, Wildlife Management
Artificial manipulations of habitat, such as those that incorporate adding nesting boxes or platforms for birds, often enhance the breeding success of threatened animals. However, such alterations are likely to have unintended behavioral and ecological effects that might negatively impact the target species or others in its community. We conducted a controlled study to investigate the effect of artificial nesting platforms on aggressive behavior and reproductive success of male common loons (Gavia immer). Males residing on territories to which platforms were added produced longer territorial “yodels” (reflecting willingness to escalate a contest), experienced increased levels of confrontation and aggression with territorial intruders, and experienced increased rates of territorial displacement by intruders. Surprisingly, males of treatment territories also experienced lower productivity. Therefore, in addition to providing novel empirical support of sequential assessment models of animal contests that predict contest escalation with increasing resource quality, this study is one of a few to show that tools used to mitigate habitat loss can negatively impact reproductive fitness in a threatened species.
Naturwissenschaften 95: 141-147