Local and landscape influence on red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) nest success in Great Lakes coastal wetlands

David D. Grandmaison, Gerald J. Niemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Nest predation has been identified as the primary mechanism contributing to reduction of reproductive success for the marsh-breeding red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). Differences in rates of nest predation have been linked to nest site characteristics within a wetland, primarily water depth. However, the relationship between the landscape surrounding these habitats and the probability of nest predation is uncertain. Moreover, factors associated with reproductive success could be a potentially powerful indicator of ecological condition in wetland habitats. We investigated the influence of landscape pattern on nest success by monitoring 366 red-winged blackbird nests in 11 coastal wetlands along the south shore of Lake Superior. Of the 366 nests, 39% were successful, 56% failed, and 5% were abandoned or lacked sufficient evidence to determine nest fate. Nest predation accounted for over 93% of total failures. Predation rates ranged from 31% to 97% among the 11 wetland sites. We modeled nest predation using multi-model logistic regression analysis and the Akaike information criterion to identify and parameterize influential variables derived from the nest site, wetland, and landscape surrounding each wetland. Our results indicated that landscape variables comprised over 50% of model prediction weight in 15 of the 17 models. Nest failure was highest at sites within an urban/residential landscape matrix. Reproductive success could be a good indicator of the ecological health of Great Lakes wetlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-304
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue numberSPEC. ISS. 3
StatePublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a research grant from the U.S. EPA’s Science to Achieve Results Estuarine and Great Lakes Coastal Initiative through funding to the Great Lakes Environmental Indicators project, U.S. EPA Agreement EPA/R-8286750. Although the research described in this article has been funded wholly or in part by the U.S. EPA, it has not been subjected to the agency’s required peer and policy review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. We are indebted to the University of Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute for additional funding as well as the creative suggestions from Ron Regal, Nick Danz, and Tom Hollenhorst. John Pastor and Richard Green were helpful in revising the manuscript. Beth Holbrook and Christie Miller assisted with data collection and made the fieldwork that much more enjoyable. This is contribution number 460 from the Center for Water and the Environment, Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth.


  • Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Great Lakes wetlands
  • Indicator
  • Nest predation


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