Parental risk-taking at natural Northern Bobwhite nests

Yu Xu, Susan N. Ellis-Felege, John P. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parental risk-taking at the nest is critical to examining the trade-offs between current and future reproduction. Using Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) at camera-monitored nests in the natural environment, we examined how parental and offspring characteristics, predator community, and predator type affected flush distance of incubating birds to approaching predators. During 1999–2006, we monitored 118 predation interactions at nests at two pairs of study sites in southern Georgia and northern Florida, USA where mesomammalian predators were experimentally reduced or not reduced. The results showed that incubating parent birds allowed closer approaches by predators that typically only consumed eggs (e.g. Nine-banded Armadillos Dasypus novemcinctus, Virginia Opossums Didelphis virginiana, and snakes) than by predators that could harm the adults (including Bobcats Lynx rufus and Raccoons Procyon lotor) prior to flushing from the nest. Our data did not support the hypotheses that parent-offspring characteristics and predator community affect parental risk-taking at the nest. Our findings suggest that parent birds incorporate information about predator identity over parental and offspring characteristics or predator community into anti-predator decisions at the nest in systems with high predation risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-75
Number of pages7
JournalAvian Biology Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Colinus virginianus
  • Nest cameras
  • Parental investment
  • Predation risk
  • Predator
  • Risk-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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