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Ecol Appl. 2007 Sep;17(6):1703-13.

Effects of anthropogenic developments on common raven nesting biology in the West Mojave Desert.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


Subsidized predators may affect prey abundance, distribution, and demography. Common Ravens (Corvus corax) are anthropogenically subsidized throughout their range and, in the Mojave Desert, have increased in number dramatically over the last 3-4 decades. Human-provided food resources are thought to be important drivers of raven population growth, but human developments add other features as well, such as nesting platforms. From 1996 to 2000, we examined the nesting ecology of ravens in the Mojave Desert, relative to anthropogenic developrhent. Ravens nested disproportionately near point sources of food and water subsidies (such as towns, landfills, and ponds) but not near roads (sources of road-killed carrion), even though both sources of subsidy enhanced fledging success. Initiation of breeding activity was more likely when a nest from the previous year was present at the start of a breeding season but was not affected by access to food. The relative effect of environmental modifications on fledging success varied from year to year, but the effect of access to human-provided resources was comparatively consistent, suggesting that humans provide consistently high-quality breeding habitat for ravens. Anthropogenic land cover types in the desert are expected to promote raven population growth and to allow ravens to occupy parts of the desert that otherwise would not support them. Predatory impacts of ravens in the Mojave Desert can therefore be considered indirect effects of anthropogenic development.

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