Research into nest boxes – what works, what does not

Darren Le Roux and colleagues have been investigating nest boxes for hollow-nesting birds and have some interesting results to share…

Large trees support unique habitat structures (e.g. hollows) that form over centuries and cannot be provided by small trees. Large trees are also declining in human-modified landscapes worldwide. One restoration strategy gaining popularity involves adding nest boxes to smaller trees to replicate natural hollows. However, limited empirical research has tested how hollow-nesting fauna responds to the presence of nest boxes. We asked: can the addition of nest boxes increase tree visitation by hollow-nesting birds?

Rosella using a nesting box, Image from http://www.ozbox.net.au/rosella/

Rosella using a nesting box, Image from http://www.ozbox.net.au/rosella/

 

We conducted a before-after control-impact (BACI) experiment using 144 nest boxes and 96 sample trees comprised of three sizes (small [20–50 cm dbh], medium [51–80 cm], and large [>80 cm]) and located in four landscape contexts (reserves, pasture, urban parklands, and urban built-up areas).

We recorded a significant increase in hollow-nesting bird abundance and richness at large trees after nest box additions. However, the same response was not observed at medium, small, or control trees. We also recorded nonsignificant increases in hollow-nesting bird abundance and richness at trees in modified landscapes after nest box additions compared to trees in reserves and control trees.

Our results suggest that adding nest boxes to smaller-sized trees may not attract hollow-nesting birds. Therefore, nest box management strategies may require re-evaluation as it is often assumed that hollow supplementation will attract hollow-using fauna and sufficiently ameliorate the loss of large, hollow-bearing trees. We advocate that large tree retention remains crucial and should be prioritized. Large trees could be effective target structures for habitat restoration, especially in modified landscapes.

To read the full report follow the link below:
Ref: Le Roux, D.S., Ikin, K., Lindenmayer, D.B., Bistricer, G., Manning, A.D., Gibbons, P. 2015. Enriching small trees with artificial nest boxes cannot mimic the value of large trees for hollow‐nesting birds, Restoration Ecology, doi: 10.1111/rec.12303. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12303/abstract

This article was reproduced from D Bytes #219