Predation is the leading cause of avian reproductive failure and theory predicts clutch size reduction under high nest predation risk. However, the impact of nest predation on population dynamics is debated, and spatiotemporal variation in reproductive output is poorly understood due to the predominance of short-term, single-site studies. To this end, we investigated how island geography (size, forest cover, isolation), predation risk (White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla abundance), climate (migration phenology, winter severity) and time trends affected early breeding success (inverse of early predation rate) and clutch size of endangered Baltic Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima). The study was conducted at two close sites (Tvärminne, Velkua) during 1991–2020. Local breeding numbers showed a similar annual decline. Interestingly, fecundity components were negatively correlated across sites: early breeding success was higher in Velkua and clutch size in Tvärminne. Island forest cover and exposure were the best determinants of early breeding success and clutch size (with only weak explanatory power for clutch size), but their effects were mediated by differential susceptibility to eagle predation risk. Clutch size increased in Tvärminne but decreased in Velkua. The former finding likely reflects increased breeder phenotypic quality due to selective disappearance at this high-predation site, whereas the latter finding may indicate increasingly compromised food intake. Only at the high-risk site did clutch size show the expected decline with increasing eagle predation risk, and the expected increase with increasing overhead protection (forest cover). We identify the least exposed forested islands, associated with the highest productivity, as prime targets of conservation.
|Number of pages||16|
|Journal||Journal of Ornithology|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 2023|
|MoE publication type||A1 Journal article-refereed|