We document the first cases of cattle behaving as avian predators, removing nestlings and eggs from three active ground nests in continuously grazed pastures in southwestern Wisconsin, 2000-2001. Cows removed three of four Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) eggs from one nest (the fourth egg was damaged), all four Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) nestlings from another, and all three Savannah Sparrow nestlings from a third. We found only two of three missing eggs (intact) and one of seven missing nestlings (dead) near two of the nests. Cows may have eaten the egg and nestlings we were unable to account for; alternatively, the egg and nestlings may have been scavenged by predators or removed from the area by the adult birds. Without videotape documentation, we would have attributed nest failure to traditional predators and cattle would not have been implicated. We may be underestimating the impact of cattle on ground nests by not considering cattle as potential predators.
Additional publication details
Apparent predation by cattle at grassland bird nests