Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Control predators not on islands for waders

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Three out of four controlled studies in the UK and the USA found some evidence for higher reproductive success or lower predation rates for waders in areas or years with predator removal, although one UK study found that only three of six species investigated had increased reproductive success in years with predator removal.
  • Predators removed were carrion crows Corvus corone, gulls Larus spp., red foxes Vulpes vulpes and cats Felis catus.


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 controlled before-and-after study at a site in east Scotland in 1981-9 (Parr 1993) found that nesting success for three out of six wader species was significantly higher in years when avian predators were controlled, than in years with no control. Success was higher for curlew Numenius arquata (26% of 79 nests vs. 82% of 50), redshank Tringa tetanus (0% of 14 nests vs. 75% of 20) and lapwing Vanellus vanellus (29% of 88 nests vs. 75% of 49), but not for golden plover Plucialis apricaria (0% of eight nests vs. 0-54% of 21), snipe Gallinago gallinago (32% of 11 nests vs. 57% of 32) or oystercatcher Haematopus otralegus (0% of 22 nests vs. 29% of 16). Nesting success for golden plover and oystercatcher was higher in a control site with no predator control. The proportion of golden plover nests predated by crows and gulls fell between 1981-5 and 1986-9, but red foxes Vulpes vulpes predated all nests from 1987-9. Carrion crows Corvus corone and common gulls Larus canus were controlled with alpha-chloralose treated eggs.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A review of management at a coastal wetland in Bouches-du-Rhône, France (Martos & Johnson 1996) described the culling of yellow-legged gulls Larus cachinnans from 1960 until 1980. However, the impact of culling on greater flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus populations could not be separated from that of other management interventions, discussed in ‘Provide artificial nest sites’, ‘Use decoys to attract birds to safe areas’ and ‘Manage water levels in wetlands’.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated before-and-after study on beaches in Monterey Bay, California, USA (Neuman et al. 2004), found that the proportion of snowy plover Charadrius alexandrinus nests lost to predation each year fell from an average of 28% of 833 during 1984–1992 to 9% of 577 during 1993–1999 following the initiation in 1993 of predator removal targeting red foxes Vulpes vulpes and feral cats Felis catus. This study also used predator exclosures and is discussed in more detail in ‘Physically protect nests with individual exclosures/barriers’, ‘Can nest protection increase nest abandonment?’ and ‘Can nest protection increase predation of adult and chick waders?’.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, controlled trial at 13 lowland wet grassland sites in England and Wales between 1996 and 2003 (Bolton et al. 2007) found no overall increase in the success of 3,139 northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus nests during four years with predator control, compared to four years without. However, when differences in initial predator densities were accounted for, control did improve survival, having a greater impact at sites with higher predator densities. At two sites where predators were controlled for all eight years, nesting success was not significantly different from the 11 other sites. Predators were red fox Vulpes vulpes and carrion crow Corvus corone, with average declines of 40% for foxes and 56% for crows.

    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

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

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.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust