Nest survival is critical to breeding in birds and plays an important role in life-history evolution and population dynamics. Studies evaluating the proximate factors involved in explaining nest survival and the resulting temporal patterns are biased in favor of temperate regions. Yet, such studies are especially pertinent to the tropics, where nest predation rates are typically high and environmental conditions often allow for year-round breeding. To tease apart the effects of calendar month and year, population-level breeding activity and environmental conditions, we studied nest survival over a 64-month period in equatorial, year-round breeding red-capped larks Calandrella cinerea in Kenya. We show that daily nest survival rates varied with time, but not in a predictable seasonal fashion among months or consistently among years. We found negative influences of flying invertebrate biomass and rain on nest survival and higher survival of nests when nests were more abundant, which suggests that nest predation resulted from incidental predation. Although an increase in nest predation is often attributed to an increase in nest predators, we suggest that in our study, it may be caused by altered predator activity resulting from increased activity of the primary prey, invertebrates, rather than activity of the red-capped larks. Our results emphasize the need to conduct more studies in Afro-tropical regions because proximate mechanisms explaining nest predation can be different in the unpredictable and highly variable environments of the tropics compared with the relatively predictable seasonal changes found in temperate regions. Such studies will aid in better understanding of the environmental influences on life-history variation and population dynamics in birds.
Data from: Nest survival in year-round breeding tropical Red-capped Larks (Calandrella cinerea) increases with higher nest abundance but decreases with higher invertebrate availability and rainfall