Predator Proofing Avian Nest Boxes: Opportunities and Challenges, Costs and Benefits

Joseph, Marcus (2023) Predator Proofing Avian Nest Boxes: Opportunities and Challenges, Costs and Benefits. Masters thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/7A6H9J5V

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The installation of nest boxes is a popular management strategy to increase nest site availability for secondary cavity-nesting birds. Standard-diameter wooden nest boxes are prone to predation, and various predator-prevention methods have therefore been developed with the intention of minimising nest box predation. However, nest box characteristics greatly affect the breeding behaviour of birds, and can therefore not only affect breeding success but are also a source of bias within the scientific literature. An initial literature review of nest box predator-prevention methods highlighted that relative to their widespread use, there is a considerable lack of research directly testing both their effectiveness and effects on breeding behaviour. A research project then showed how various life-history (e.g. brood size and nestling age) and environmental (e.g. habitat characteristics and meteorological conditions) variables affect the parental care patterns of four secondary cavity-nesting passerines (i.e., the European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Great Tit (Parus major) and Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)) breeding in nest boxes at Nagshead Nature Reserve, a broadleaf woodland site in Gloucestershire, UK. A significant aspect of the project examined parent care behaviours in different types of nest boxes (i.e., standard, woodcrete, deep and guardian tube), aiming to test whether nest box type influences chick provisioning, a hypothesis initially proposed by Blunsden (2020). Results showed the prevalence of leaning behaviours (whereby parent birds feed nestlings by leaning into the nest chamber from the entrance hole, without having to enter fully) appeared to be an individual-specific behaviour and significantly reduced chick provisioning durations (i.e. the time taken for a bird to feed nestlings), thus having adaptive value. Although nest box type did not affect the prevalence of such behaviours, chick provisioning durations were significantly longer in woodcrete and deep nest boxes, showing these nest box types had adverse effects on a bird’s ability to effectively enter and exit the nest box to feed nestlings. Overall, although predator-prevention methods are often assumed to have a net benefit to birds, preliminary research highlights potentially unintended negative consequences that are understudied. The severity of these adverse effects is uncertain and whether the provisioning of predator-proof nest boxes provides a net benefit remains unclear.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nest boxes; Management strategy; secondary cavity-nesting birds; Predation; Breeding behaviour
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture > SF 461 Birds
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Health, Life Sciences, Sport and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Kamila Niekoraniec
Date Deposited: 09 May 2024 13:32
Last Modified: 09 May 2024 14:54

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