The design of artificial nestboxes for the study of secondary hole-nesting birds: A review of methodological inconsistencies and potential biases

Marcel M. Lambrechts, Frank Adriaensen, Daniel R. Ardia, Alexandr V. Artemyev, Francisco Atiénzar, Jerzy Bańbura, Emilio Barba, Jean Charles Bouvier, Jordi Camprodon, Caren B. Cooper, Russell D. Dawson, Marcel Eens, Tapio Eeva, Bruno Faivre, Laszlo Z. Garamszegi, Anne E. Goodenough, Andrew G. Gosler, Arnaud Grégoire, Simon C. Griffith, Lars GustafssonL. Scott Johnson, Wojciech Kania, Oskars Keišs, Paulo E. Llambias, Mark C. Mainwaring, Raivo Mänd, Bruno Massa, Tomasz D. Mazgajski, Anders Pape Møller, Juan Moreno, Beat Naef-Daenzer, Jan Ke Nilsson, Ana C. Norte, Markku Orell, Ken A. Otter, Chan Ryul Park, Christopher M. Perrins, Jan Pinowski, Jiri Porkert, Jaime Potti, Vladimir Remes, Heinz Richner, Seppo Rytkönen, Ming Tang Shiao, Bengt Silverin, Tore Slagsvold, Henrik G. Smith, Alberto Sorace, Martyn J. Stenning, Ian Stewart, Charles F. Thompson, Piotr Tryjanowski, Janos Török, Arie J.Van Noordwijk, David W. Winkler, Nadia Ziane

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

217 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The widespread use of artificial nestboxes has led to significant advances in our knowledge of the ecology, behaviour and physiology of cavity nesting birds, especially small passerines. Nestboxes have made it easier to perform routine monitoring and experimental manipulation of eggs or nestlings, and also repeatedly to capture, identify and manipulate the parents. However, when comparing results across study sites the use of nestboxes may also introduce a potentially significant confounding variable in the form of differences in nestbox design amongst studies, such as their physical dimensions, placement height, and the way in which they are constructed and maintained. However, the use of nestboxes may also introduce an unconsidered and potentially significant confounding variable due to differences in nestbox design amongst studies, such as their physical dimensions, placement height, and the way in which they are constructed and maintained. Here we review to what extent the characteristics of artificial nestboxes (e.g. size, shape, construction material, colour) are documented in the 'methods' sections of publications involving hole-nesting passerine birds using natural or excavated cavities or artificial nestboxes for reproduction and roosting. Despite explicit previous recommendations that authors describe in detail the characteristics of the nestboxes used, we found that the description of nestbox characteristics in most recent publications remains poor and insufficient. We therefore list the types of descriptive data that should be included in the methods sections of relevant manuscripts and justify this by discussing how variation in nestbox characteristics can affect or confound conclusions from nestbox studies. We also propose several recommendations to improve the reliability and usefulness of research based on long-term studies of any secondary hole-nesting species using artificial nestboxes for breeding or roosting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalActa Ornithologica
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

Keywords

  • Cyanistes
  • Ficedula
  • Parus
  • field experiments
  • flycatcher
  • methods
  • nest sites
  • nestboxes
  • passerines
  • secondary cavity-nesting birds
  • tit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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    Lambrechts, M. M., Adriaensen, F., Ardia, D. R., Artemyev, A. V., Atiénzar, F., Bańbura, J., Barba, E., Bouvier, J. C., Camprodon, J., Cooper, C. B., Dawson, R. D., Eens, M., Eeva, T., Faivre, B., Garamszegi, L. Z., Goodenough, A. E., Gosler, A. G., Grégoire, A., Griffith, S. C., ... Ziane, N. (2010). The design of artificial nestboxes for the study of secondary hole-nesting birds: A review of methodological inconsistencies and potential biases. Acta Ornithologica, 45(1), 1-26. https://doi.org/10.3161/000164510X516047