Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Manage woodland edges for birds

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • We captured three studies of two experiments, of which one, a before-and-after study from the UK, found an increase in the local population of European nightjars following several management interventions, including the management of woodland edges for birds.
  • Two studies of a replicated, controlled paired sites experiment in the USA found that bird abundances were higher in woodland edges with border-edge cuts and that predation on artificial nests was lower than in uncut edges. Scrub- and edge-nesting species were more abundant. Overall species richness and nest success did not differ different between treatments.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A before-and-after study at Minsmere reserve (151 ha), Suffolk, UK, in 1978-1988 (Burgess et al. 1990), found that the local population of European nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus increased following a series of management interventions, including creating crenulated woodland edges to maximise the length of edges. This study is discussed in detail in ‘Clear or open patches in forests’.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled and paired study in May-June 1996 on a mixed woodland-farmland site in Pennsylvania, USA (Fleming & Giuliano 1998), found that bird abundance was higher in 12 woodland edges subject to border-edge cuts than in 12 control (uncut) edges (8 species/100 m of cut edge vs. 6 species/100 m of uncut edge). Cut edges also contained more shrub and edge-nesting species (25 vs. 17 species), but contained fewer woodland species (nine vs. 23 species). Whilst 13 of 60 species recorded were only found in cut edges, 23 of 60 were only found in uncut edges. Overall species richness and nesting success estimates were no different between edge types (14 species/site and 54% success for 35 nests in cut edges vs. 15 species/site and 52% for 25 nests in controls). Cut edges consisted on felling trees 15-40 m into each woodlot and leaving the debris in place. This occurred two or three years before bird surveys were conducted.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, controlled and paired study from Pennsylvania, USA (Fleming & Giuliano 2001), on the same site as in (2), found that predation rates on artificial nests were over twice as high in five unmanaged woodlot edges, as in five border-cut edges (36% predation of 50 nests in five cut edges vs. 88% of 50 nests in five controls). The authors suggest this difference may be due to increased cover in cut edges. Nests were placed either on the ground, in low shrubs or in taller shrubs, up to 2 m above ground and contained two northern bobwhite Colinus virginianus eggs.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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