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We studied orientation of nest sites relative to nearby vegetation for dabbling ducks (Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera; Blue-winged Teal, A. discors; Gadwall, A. strepera; Mallard, A. platyrhynchos; and Northern Shoveler, A. clypeata) and Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) in ungrazed grassland habitat during 1995-1997 in westcentral Montana. We estimated an index of vegetation height and density in intercardinal directions (NE, SE, SW, NW) immediately around nests. All species oriented nests with the least vegetation to the southeast and the most vegetation to either the southwest or northwest. Furthermore, maximum vegetation around nests shifted from the southwest to the northwest with increasing nest initiation date, apparently as a response of individuals tracking seasonal change in the afternoon solar path. Thus, nests were relatively exposed to solar insolation during cool morning hours but were shaded from intense insolation in the afternoon throughout the breeding season. We suggest that nest microhabitat was selected in part to moderate the thermal environment.
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Grassland birds orient nests relative to nearby vegetation