Research ArticleAVIAN BIOLOGY

Trait-mediated trophic cascade creates enemy-free space for nesting hummingbirds

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  04 Sep 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 8, e1500310
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500310


The indirect effects of predators on nonadjacent trophic levels, mediated through traits of intervening species, are collectively known as trait-mediated trophic cascades. Although birds are important predators in terrestrial ecosystems, clear examples of trait-mediated indirect effects involving bird predators have almost never been documented. Such indirect effects are important for structuring ecological communities and are likely to be negatively impacted by habitat fragmentation, climate change, and other factors that reduce abundance of top predators. We demonstrate that hummingbirds in Arizona realize increased breeding success when nesting in association with hawks. An enemy-free nesting space is created when jays, an important source of mortality for hummingbird nests, alter their foraging behavior in the presence of their hawk predators.

  • nesting association
  • nest success
  • life history evolution
  • mesopredator release
  • avian biology
  • Trochilidae
  • Accipitridae
  • Corvidae

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances