The fiddler crab, Uca beebei, lives in individually defended burrows, in mixed-sex colonies on intertidal mud flats. Avian predation is common, especially of crabs unable to escape into burrows. Mating pairs form in two ways. Females either mate on the surface at their burrow entrance (‘surface mating’) or leave their own burrow and sequentially enter and leave (‘sample’) courting males' burrows, before staying in one to mate underground (‘burrow mating’). We tested whether perceived predation risk affects the relative frequency of these mating modes. We first observed mating under natural levels of predation during one biweekly, semi–lunar cycle. We then experimentally increased the perceived predation risk by attracting grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) to each half of the study site in two successive biweekly cycles. In each experimental cycle, crabs were significantly less likely to mate on the side with more birds. Moreover, on the side with elevated predation risk, the number of females leaving burrows to sample was greatly reduced relative to the number of females that surface–mated. Males waved less and built fewer mud pillars, which attract females, when birds were present. We discuss several plausible proximate explanations for these results and the effect of changes in predation regime on sexual selection.