Publication Details

Major, R. E., Ashcroft, M. B. & Davis, A. (2014). Nest caging as a conservation tool for threatened songbirds. Wildlife Research, 41 (7), 598-605.


Context: Enclosing nests in cages to exclude predators is a management tool frequently used to increase the reproductive success of threatened ground-nesting precocial birds. This technique has seldom been used with passerines, despite the predicted increased benefit for altricial species due to their longer period of nest dependency. Aims: The aims of this study were to determine (1) whether cages could be installed around the nests of a threatened, shrub-nesting passerine without causing parental desertion, and (2) whether caged nests could successfully exclude the dominant nest predators and increase nesting success. Methods: Cages with four different mesh sizes (1000 mm, 200 mm, 100 mm, 50 mm) were installed sequentially in trials at four nests in a secure population and three nests in an endangered population of white-fronted chats (Epthianura albifrons) to investigate susceptibility to desertion. Trials using 160 caged and uncaged artificial nests were used to determine the efficacy of 50-mm wire mesh in preventing access to eggs by potential nest predators. Key results: Parent birds accepted nest cages, which reduced predation rates on artificial nests from 96% to 14%. Infrared-triggered cameras revealed that corvids were responsible for 94% of predation episodes. Nest success of caged white-fronted chat nests was 85% (n = 7). Conclusions: Nest cages do not appear to have negative effects on nest success of white-fronted chats, and may considerably increase reproductive success. Implications: Nest cages may aid conservation of the endangered population of white-fronted chats and other endangered songbird species.



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