In many bird species, survival can vary with the age of the nest, with the date a nest was initiated, or among years within the same nesting area. A literature review showed that patterns of survival vary in relation to nest age and date and are often contradictory. Inconsistencies could be a result of temporal variation in the environment or life-history differences among species. We examined patterns of nest survival in relation to nest age, date, and year for several duck and passerine species nesting at a single location in North Dakota during 1998–2003. We predicted that if environment shaped nest survival patterns, then temporal patterns in survival might be similar among three species of upland nesting ducks, and also among three species of grassland passerines nesting at the same site. We expected that survival patterns would differ between ducks and passerines because of relatively disparate life histories and differences in predators that prey on their nests. Nest survival was rarely constant among years, seasonally, or with age of the nest for species that we studied. As predicted, the pattern of survival was similar among duck species, driven mainly by differences in nest survival associated with nest initiation date. The pattern of survival also was similar among passerine species, but nest survival was more influenced by nest age than by date. Our findings suggest that some but not all variation in temporal patterns of nest survival in grassland birds reported in the literature can be explained on the basis of temporal environmental variation. Because patterns of survival were dissimilar among ducks and passerines, it is likely that mechanisms such as predation or brood parasitism have variable influences on productivity of ducks and passerines nesting in the same area. Our results indicate that biologists and managers should not assume that temporal environmental variations, especially factors that affect nest survival, act similarly on all grassland birds.
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Time-specific patterns of nest survival for ducks and passerines breeding in North Dakota