Where The Birds Make Their Nests


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Attract Birds With Nesting Material

This rather simplistic view of nests has generally prevailed over the years, and studies examining the function of birds' nests have been scarce, particularly when compared to other stages of reproduction Lessells ; Hansell This oversight is unfortunate as there is considerable evidence that nests are sophisticated structures that require considerable cognitive abilities to construct Collias ; Muth and Healy ; Walsh et al.

Fortunately, our understanding of the design and function of birds' nests has increased considerably in recent years, and here, we review the functions of birds' nests. We begin by examining the influence of natural and sexual selection, before examining the influence of parasites and environmental variation in determining nest-building behaviors and nest design. Avoiding predation is a ubiquitous challenge for most birds, and natural selection favors those individuals with effective antipredator defenses Caro Natural selection exerts selective pressures not only on the design of nests, but also on the birds themselves during the nest-building period while they are collecting and transporting material to the nest site see review in Lima Accordingly, there are a number of ways in which the design of nests can minimize the risk of predation, including the location in which nests are built.

The selection of a safe nesting site is an important determinant of reproductive success, and some birds have been shown to choose their nest sites in order to reduce the risk of predation. An observational study showed that dusky warblers Phylloscopus fuscatus selected safer nest sites that were farther from the ground and in more isolated bushes when predatory Siberian chipmunks Tamias sibiricus were abundant, despite such locations carrying costs in terms of higher exposure to cold winds Forstmeier and Weiss Elsewhere, veeries Catharus fuscescens selected nest sites with low levels of predatory white-footed mice Peromyscus leucopus activity Schmidt et al.

These observational studies have also been supplemented with experimental studies. Experimentally placing wasp Polybia rejecta nests in close proximity to rufous-naped wren Campylorhynchus rufinucha nests resulted in experimental wren pairs suffering significantly lower rates of predation from white-faced monkeys Cebus capucinus than control pairs without wasps close by, as the monkeys actively avoided the wasps Joyce When the calls of predatory corvids were played in Siberian jay Perisoreus infaustus nesting areas, the jays responded by nesting in safer, but less well insulted, sites Eggers et al.

Orange-crowned warblers Vermivora celata responded to novel nest predator playbacks by shifting from nesting in trees and shrubs nesting on to the ground Peluc et al. In summary, it appears that local abundance of predators does result in adaptive shifts in nest site selection, with birds' nesting in safer locations when the abundance of predators is high. Such shifts in nest sites are presumably under strong selection pressures as such shifts often entail costs through reduced thermoregulatory benefits in sites with lower levels of predation risk. The threat of predation has resulted in some animals nesting in association with more aggressive species, whose heightened antipredator defenses also benefit the focal species see review in Quinn and Ueta Illustratively, breeding choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax associate with lesser kestrels Falco naumanni and benefit through the kestrels being very vigilant for, and aggressive toward, potential nest predators.

As the kestrels do not prey upon the choughs, then the association is entirely beneficial for the choughs as they suffer significantly fewer nest predation events and consequently have higher levels of breeding success when compared to conspecifics breeding without an association to the kestrels Blanco and Tella However, not all associations may be so advantageous, and in other instances, the protective species can sometimes also prey upon the protected species Caro , which means that there may be an optimal nesting distance between them.

Nest predation rates suffered by red-breasted geese Branta ruficollis are generally negatively correlated with their distance to more aggressive peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus nests. However, the geese are also harassed or attacked by the falcons if they nest too close, meaning that the geese optimally nest at least 40—50 m away from the falcons Quinn and Kokorev Nesting associations are therefore an effective way of reducing the threat of predation upon nests Quinn and Ueta Density-dependent patterns of nest predation are also expected to affect the spacing of nests, and while there is a general consensus that nest predation rates increase as nest density increases, there are too few empirical studies to confirm this Caro One notable exception comes from a study of mustelids, rodents, and colonially nesting fieldfares Turdus pilaris.

Mustelids favor rodent prey but shift to the contents of fieldfare nests when rodents are scarce. Consequently, mustelid predation on fieldfare nests increases as rodent density decreases, and there was a clear tendency for fieldfare colonies to form during years of low rodent abundance and for nesting to be more dispersed or noncolonial, during high rodent years.

Hence, colonially nesting birds provided more effective mobbing defenses against mustelid predators, and it was suggested that the fieldfares track rodent density directly as a surrogate cue of predation risk Hogstad While this study strongly suggests that predation can alter the optimal spacing of nests, this is clearly an area where further research is warranted. The height of nests from the ground also influences nest predation rates Martin ; Lima In a controlled experiment using artificial nests that represented the nests of open-cup nesting passerine birds, it was shown that higher nests were predated significantly more often than nests placed on the ground.

The higher nests were predated by avian predators, meaning that the ground nests were safer despite them being more at risk from a range of mammalian predators Piper and Catterall Elsewhere, lesser kestrels preferentially occupied holes located high up on churches as predation rates were negatively correlated with the height of the nest from the ground Negro and Hiraldo By contrast, higher long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus nests were predated more frequently by avian predators, such as jays Garrulus glandarius and magpies Pica pica , than lower nests Hatchwell et al.

Consequently, there is good evidence to suggest that birds vary the height at which they build their nests in response to predators as they build their nests higher from the ground in response to mammalian predators and lower in response to avian predators. Further, birds should also adapt following a predation event, and there is evidence that if a parent survives a nest predation event, then they disperse further distances to begin another nesting attempt when compared to a successful nesting attempt review in Lima For example, female goldeneyes Bucephala clangula whose nests were predated by pine martens Martes martes were twice as likely to nest in new locations the following year, than females whose nests were not predated Dow and Fredga To our knowledge, no studies have examined dispersal distances of focal individuals in relation to the breeding success of neighboring conspecifics, and further studies could usefully examine this issue.

The design of completed nests also influences the risk of predation Caro , and for example, ground-nesting birds must rely on crypsis to conceal their nests from predators. A study of Japanese quail Coturnix japonica found that egg patterning and color varied between, but not within, females and individual females consistently selected those laying substrates that matched the patterning and color of their eggs to make the visual detection of their eggs most challenging for predators.

Some birds cover their eggs in the absence of an incubating parent, and a study of mallard ducks Anas platyrhynchos found that when nests were covered with nest material, they suffered significantly lower rates of nest predation than nests which were left experimentally uncovered Kreisinger and Albrecht However, while such behaviors may improve the crypsis functions of nests, there is often an assumption that crypsis is traded off against the requirement to create optimal microclimates within the nests Lima This trade-off was examined in a study of little grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis which lay their eggs on floating nests built from wet plant material and cover their eggs with surplus nesting material when no parent is incubating.

When nests were experimentally left uncovered, they suffered both lower predation rates and reduced temperatures when compared to control nests that were left covered Prokop and Trnka , thereby providing no evidence for such a trade-off. However, further research could usefully examine the potential trade-off between the requirements of crypsis and thermoregulation in animals. The risk of predation also influences the design of nests that are built above ground.

Darwin's small tree finch Camarhynchus parvuus females preferred to pair with males that built nests that were well concealed by surrounding vegetation, whereas exposed nests were rarely used for nesting Kleindorfer Elsewhere, larger eastern olivaceous warbler Hippolais pallida elaeca nests were predated significantly more often than smaller nests Antonov However, observational studies examining nest sizes and predation rates may be confounded by nest site selection, clutch sizes, and parental activities, and several studies have attempted to disentangle these potential determinants of nest predation.


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Nest predation rates are extremely high in the tropics, and one study examined whether higher nest predation rates select for smaller nests. When nests of different sizes were experimentally swapped around, nest predation rates increased with nest size, but not with the location of nests, indicating that nest size was the primary determinant of nest predation Biancucci and Martin Meanwhile, a study which examined the relative contributions of nest size, nest site, parental nest defense behaviors, and clutch size in determining the predation rates upon blackbird nests found that higher nests and nests with greater external diameters were predated more often than expected by chance Gregoire et al.

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Elsewhere, nest failure in blackbirds was found to be dependent on the nest's detectability, and to a lesser extent, height, but not on parental behaviors, clutch size, or nest site characteristics Cresswell Therefore, it appears that nest predation rates are not solely explained by either their size or location, and further studies are required in order to elucidate their relative contributions to nest predation. In summary, the requirement to minimize the risk of predation strongly influences both nest site selection and the design of completed nests.

However, while there is strong evidence that nest predation rates influence nest design over evolutionary timescales, few studies have examined whether nest design varies adaptively within a bird's lifetime Lima This omission has presumably occurred because of the general assumption that nest building is a largely instinctive process Hansell and Ruxton ; Raby and Clayton Consequently, further studies examining changes in nest building in responsive to variable levels of predation risk a bird's lifetime would be valuable.

Individuals normally signal their quality through physical or behavioral signals such as brightly colored wing patches, elaborate songs, or extravagant ornaments such as crests Andersson , yet some species build external structures that signal their phenotypic quality Schaedelin and Taborsky Species such as bowerbirds Madden build structures whose sole purpose is to attract a mate Schaedelin and Taborsky However, for nest construction behaviors and nest design to be extended phenotypic signals that play a role in sexual selection, they must reliably indicate the quality of the builder by being associated with costs Andersson ; Maynard Smith and Harper The process of fetching material to construct nests intuitively appears costly, yet such potential costs have generally been overlooked as they were often assumed to be negligible, particularly when compared to the costs of producing eggs or provisioning offspring Dolnik ; Hansell ; Heenan However, there is a growing awareness that the costs of constructing a nest are far higher than previously imagined and indirect evidence of such costs comes from behaviors suggesting that animals minimize the costs of nest construction.

Illustratively, some species exploit the efforts of others by stealing nesting material or completed nests from conspecifics Moreno et al. Direct evidence that nest building is a costly process comes from studies that have estimated the costs, with one study showing that cliff swallows Petrochelidon pyrrhonota constructing a g nest expend kJ by making an estimated trips to collect construction materials Withers Elsewhere, a comparative analysis by Soler et al. Experimental studies have also demonstrated that nest building is costly.

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Meanwhile, supplementary fed female blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus built heavier nests than unfed control females in one study Mainwaring and Hartley and shallower nests in another study Smith et al. Therefore, despite none of these studies demonstrating any advantages of larger nests to the builders, nest-building behaviors appear to be limited by the availability of food. Other studies have further tested the costs of nest construction by directly manipulating nest-building effort, rather than carrying out indirect manipulations of food availability. When the nests and eggs of experimental pairs of pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca were removed, thereby forcing them to build a second nest, experimental females built smaller nests than control females Moreno et al.

Further, when the costs of nest building were experimentally reduced in pied flycatchers, experimental females spent more time incubating their eggs before provisioning their nestlings at a higher rate than control females. This resulted in nestlings in experimental nests having longer tarsi at prefledging than nestlings in control nests Moreno et al.

Meanwhile, Lambrechts et al. To summarize, there is now observational, comparative, and experimental evidence that nest construction is a costly process. While these studies have focused disproportionately on birds, presumably because their nest-building visits can be accurately counted and their completed nests can be weighed and measured Mainwaring and Hartley , there is no reason to suggest that nest construction is not associated with costs in other taxa Barber There is strong evidence that nest construction is costly Maynard Smith and Harper ; Schaedelin and Taborsky , and so nest-building behaviors and nest design have the capacity to act as extended phenotypic signals, which may be influenced by sexual selection Andersson ; Moreno Observational studies have shown that male-built nests play a role in sexual selection Andersson ; Soler et al.

In penduline tits Remiz pendulinus , those males that constructed larger nests were more successful in acquiring a female Hoi et al.

Where Birds Choose to Build Nests and Why | Varment Guard

Although male care was not correlated with nest size, females invested more care into broods raised in large nests, meaning that males that built large nests benefited through increased reproductive success Szentirmai et al. These observational studies have also been supplemented by several experimental studies. Nest sites contain a mixture of old and new stones, and when old stones were experimentally removed from nests, males did not respond by carrying more stones, implying that females choose males on the number of new stones that they transfer to nesting sites before each breeding attempt Soler et al.

Further, when new stones were experimentally added to nest sites during the stone-carrying period, males carried fewer stones to nests, and when stones were experimentally removed, males compensated by carrying more stones to the nesting site Moreno et al. In an experiment which manipulated the number of stones at nests, it was found that females which were paired with males that carried more stones responded by laying earlier in the breeding season, which led to experimental pairs having higher reproductive success than control pairs Moreno et al.

Mom Hawk Breed Making A Nest On Tree And Laying Eggs

In starlings Sturnus vulgaris and spotless starlings Sturnus unicolor , males build the nest almost entirely alone, while females occasionally add feathers to nests. Both species incorporate green plant material into their nests, and the function of such material is thought to be associated either with sexual selection or with limiting the detrimental effects of ectoparasites.

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In spotless starlings, the majority of green plant material was carried to nests during the ten days prior to the start of egg laying, and those males that carried more green plant material to nests controlled a larger number of boxes, meaning that they had more female partners Veiga et al. Meanwhile, the experimental removal and addition of green plant material had no effect on ectoparasite abundance or the mass of nestlings in starling nests, although males with experimentally increased amounts of green plant material did attract females more successfully than control males Brouwer and Komdeur When the amount of green plant material was experimentally increased in spotless starling nests to mimic increased male nest-building effort, females responded by carrying more feathers to nests.

Such responsive building behaviors were interpreted as functionally related signaling behaviors that played an important role in courtship activities and the signaling of status Polo and Veiga Consequently, these studies show that the function of green plant material within starling and spotless starling nests is to play a role in sexual selection rather than as an antiparasite behavior.

Meanwhile, the females of some species choose males based on the number of nests that they build within their territories Metz In birds, studies have shown that males that build more nests within their territories have greater reproductive success in yellow-shouldered widowbirds Euplectes macrourus Savalli , red bishops Euplectes orix Friedl and Klump and wrens Troglodytes troglodytes Garson ; Evans and Burn ; Evans a , b. Despite one study reporting that the experimental addition of nests did not increase the pairing success of male marsh wrens Cistothorus palustris Leonard and Picman , there is good evidence that males that build multiple nests gain increased reproductive success.

More generally, there is strong evidence that male-built nests act as signals to females, who adjust their reproductive investment accordingly Andersson ; Moreno Meanwhile, there is a growing appreciation that female-built nests reflect the phenotype of the building female in a similar way to male-built nests Moreno et al.

However, studies examining the function of female-built nests are less common than studies of male-built nests for two reasons. First, female-built nests are considered to be relatively uncommon when compared to male-built and bi-parentally built nests Collias and Collias ; Hansell , and second, the theory of extended phenotypic signals has focused disproportionately on male signals Andersson ; Moreno Observational studies of female-built nests are relatively scarce, but one study showed that female spotless starlings, which placed feathers in their nests within nestboxes whenever they were locally available, did so in a nonrandom manor Veiga and Polo Wood pigeon Columba palumbus and spotless starling feathers that show higher ultraviolet and visible reflectance on their reverse side were overwhelmingly placed with this side upwards, jay feathers which have higher reflectance on the obverse side were overwhelmingly placed with this side upwards, while azure-winged magpie Cyanopica cyana feathers were placed randomly as both sides have similar reflectance values.


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This indicates that feathers were placed so that their conspicuousness was maximized and suggests that they play a role in sexual selection Veiga and Polo While it is generally acknowledged that female blue tits build the nest alone, a recent study examined why males sometimes carry feathers into nests. Males that delivered feathers had longer tarsi and fed their offspring more frequently than males that did not deliver feathers, and females responded to the delivery of feathers by reducing their own provisioning rates.

This discrepancy may be explained by another study which found that females with relatively high chromatic breast plumage, and not body size per se , built bigger nests and particularly so when paired to males with relatively high chromatic breast plumage Broggi and Senar Elsewhere, young female tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor built nests with fewer feathers and had reduced fledging success when compared to older females Lombardo , suggesting that experience may play a part in determining variation in nest design.

Experimental studies of female-built nests are rare, but one study examined how the amount of green plant material placed in blue tit nests influenced male behavior. When the size of nests and the amount of green plant material were experimentally enlarged or reduced, male risk-taking behaviors were found to be significantly lower at those nests reduced in size and significantly higher at nests where green plants were added.

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Observational studies examining the function of nest-building behaviors in bi-parentally built nests are relatively uncommon because bi-parentally built nests are relatively uncommon when compared to both male-built and female-built nests Collias and Collias In crested tits Parus cristatus , only males in good condition contributed to nest building, which shortened the interval between the start of nest building and the onset of laying by about 5 days. This resulted in nestlings fledging about 5 days earlier and as earlier fledged nestlings had enhanced survival prospects, then male nest-building efforts increased offspring fitness Lens et al.

Studies of barn swallows have shown that higher quality males with long tails contributed less to nest construction than lower quality males with shorter tails. Female nest-building effort remained constant across males with varying tail lengths, yet females paired with males with longer tails built nests with thinner walls and larger nest cups so that they could lay larger clutches inside them Soler et al.

Similarly, female rufous bush robins Cercotrichas galactotes responded to greater male effort during the nest-building stage by laying larger clutches Palamino et al. However, extended phenotypic signals may not always be an honest indicator of the builder's quality, and signaling theory suggests that such exaggeration should be punished Moreno Objects placed in black kite Milvus migrans nests were found to be an honest indicator of the pair's phenotypic quality by accurately predicting their fighting ability.

Black kite pairs settle to breed in territories containing suitable nesting sites, but nonbreeding birds sometimes attempt to violently take over such breeding territories. Nests containing many objects were built by pairs with high fighting capabilities and lower quality birds did not dishonestly signal their phenotypic quality. Such cheating would have easily been possible, but the honesty of this signal was maintained by the threat of individuals being severely hurt in aggressive challenges from intruding birds Sergio et al. There are a few experimental studies which have examined how bi-parental nest-building behaviors are influenced by sexual selection.

Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests
Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests
Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests
Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests
Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests
Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests
Where The Birds Make Their Nests Where The Birds Make Their Nests

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