Breeding success of the great tit Parus major in relation to attributes of natural nest cavities in a primeval forest

Maziarz, Marta ORCID:; Wesołowski, Tomasz; Hebda, Grzegorz; Cholewa, Marta; Broughton, Richard K.. 2016 Breeding success of the great tit Parus major in relation to attributes of natural nest cavities in a primeval forest. Journal of Ornithology, 157 (1). 343-354.

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An overlap in attributes of nest cavities used by Great Tit Parus major across Eurasia suggests similar nest site preferences within the geographical range, although the drivers of these preferences are unclear. To determine whether preferred cavities provide conditions enhancing successful reproduction, we investigated the breeding performance of Great Tits in relation to tree cavity characteristics using data collected during 2008–2011 in primeval conditions (Białowieża National Park, Poland). Here, tree cavities are diverse and superabundant but nesting birds are at risk from a variety of predators. According to expectations, nest losses were high (60 % of Great Tit nests failed), mostly due to predation (69 % of nest failures). The risk of nest failure varied with nest cavity attributes. Compared to successful nests, failures were situated higher above the ground and placed closer to the cavity entrance. Very deep cavities with narrow entrances and strong livings walls provided effective protection against larger predators (e.g., martens, woodpeckers), unable to enter the cavity or pull out the contents. Yet, such holes were no barrier for the smallest predators (e.g., Forest Dormouse Dryomys nitedula), which were able to enter any Great Tit nest cavity and destroyed most of the nests. Avoiding small predators would give a selective advantage to the birds, but this seems hardly possible to achieve. We conclude that tree cavities preferred by the tits show a combination of properties which are a compromise for avoiding predation (the strongest selective pressure) and providing the minimum requirements (sufficient nest illumination, microclimate, protection against nest soaking) for development and growth of young.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pywell
ISSN: 0021-8375
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: tree cavities, nest site selection, adaptations, nest predation, clutch size, Bialowieza National Park
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 19 Jan 2016 16:40 +0 (UTC)

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