Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Use multiple barriers to protect nests

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

Study locations

Key messages

  • A replicated, controlled study from the USA found no evidence that erecting an electric fence around nests protected by individual barriers increased fledging success in piping plovers Charadrius melodus.
  • A replicated study from the USA found that removing the outer of two nest protection fences after 15 days appeared to reduce predation compared to when both fences were left for 18 days.


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 replicated, controlled study in 1996 and 1997 at three alkali lakes in North Dakota and Montana, USA (Murphy et al. 2003) found that piping plover Charadrius melodus fledging rates were higher with mesh fences erected around individual nests (see ‘Physically protect nests with individual exclosures/barriers’). When an electric fence (1.1 m tall) was erected around study sites there was a non-significant increase in fledging success, compared with sites where only individual nest fences were used (2.1 chicks/pair with electric fence and nest fences, n = 50 vs. 1.7 chicks/pair with only nest fences, n = 46).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated study from 2001-2002 at three black tern Chlidonias niger colonies in wetlands in Maine, USA (Heath & Servello 2008) found that surrounding nests with both a chick retention fence and a predator exclosure fence but removing the chick retention fence 15 days after hatching in 2002 appeared to reduce predation (three chicks from one nest predated, n = 33 chicks from 14 nests), compared to when the retention fence was left until chicks were 18 days old in 2001 (17 chicks from seven nests predated, n = 36 chicks from 14 nests). The chick retention fence was 30 cm high and 15 cm off the ground, and consisted of a 1 m diameter circular fence with an overhead ‘concealment flap’ of wire covered in landscaping cloth; the predator exclosure fence was 1.4 m high and 4.6 m in diameter. The study did not include control (unprotected) nests, so the overall effectiveness of the fences cannot be judged. This study also discussed nest abandonment; see ‘Can nest protection increase nest abandonment?’

    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
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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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