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Research article2012Peer reviewed

Numerical and behavioral responses of waterfowl to the invasive American mink: A conservation paradox

Brzezinski, Marcin; Natorff, Magdalena; Zalewski, Andrzej; Zmihorski, Michal


A behavioral response is usually the first adaptation of animals to environmental changes such as the introduction of an alien invasive species, and it seems to be the most important factor in reducing the negative impact of new predators on naive prey. This study examined changes in the abundance and behavior of breeding coots (Fulica atra) and great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) in response to invasion of the Mazurian Lakeland (NE Poland) by American mink (Neovison vison), first recorded here in 1984. Feral mink densities varied from 1.0 to 14.6 individuals per 10 km of shoreline. Mink were responsible for the losses of 17-58% of experimental clutches (artificial nests containing chicken eggs) that were deployed. Mink destroyed more experimental clutches than other predators; the effects of mink predation were similar in reeds and on the bank. Radio-tracking showed that mink avoided lake banks near human settlements. Mink have markedly affected the breeding distribution of both species and caused a greater than 20-fold decline in coot numbers. For coots and grebes breeding distribution and nesting success were positively associated with built-up areas along lake shores and also with whether the birds were breeding in colonies. Increased brood survival of coots and grebes near human settlements is a paradox in the sense that a man-made habitat change has provided refuge from an alien predator. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Coot; Fulica atra; Great crested grebe; Podiceps cristatus; Nesting success; Population dynamics; Biological invasion; Neovison vison; Habitat selection

Published in

Biological Conservation
2012, Volume: 147, number: 1, pages: 68-78

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