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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Provide nesting material for wild birds Bird Conservation

Key messages

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  • A replicated study in the UK found that songbirds used feathers provided at a very low rate and nest construction did not appear to be resource limited.
  • A replicated, controlled study from Australia found that four species of egrets used supplementary nesting material provided, preferentially taking material from raised platforms over water compared to plots on dry land.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated, controlled study from September-January in 1989-1990 in 6 experimental and 3 control plots in a wetland in New South Wales, Australia (Baxter 1996) found that four species of egret (great white egret Ardea alba, intermediate egret A. intermedia, little egret Egretta garzetta and cattle egret A. ibis) collected supplementary nest material preferentially from raised platforms over water than from plots on dry land. At all locations over nineteen weeks there was a strong preference for material presented on platforms compared with that presented in supplementation plots (80% compared < 20% of supplementary sticks respectively). The author suggests that nest material supplementation may reduce tree defoliation and lead to enhanced breeding success through fewer eggs and chicks falling out and greater thermal insulation. Sticks (0.3-2 cm diameter, 15-40 cm in length) were provided weekly on 2 x 1.3 m platforms over water and 2 m2 plots on dry land. Control plots (2 m2, 5-15 m away from


A replicated study from March-July in 1995-1997 in a mixed woodland area containing 20 experimental plots near Glasgow, Scotland (Hansell & Ruxton 2002) found that songbird species used supplementary feathers at very low rates and that nest construction is not resource limited. The mean feather loss per week from experimental plots was 14.4% and only in one week (mid-May) of the study did it rise above 40%. The proportion of marked feathers recovered from nests was 2.8%. A total of 41 nests (from 10 different songbird species) were found. Plots contained 50 marked (unique 2 mm diameter waterproof paint spot/site) feathers (30-50 mm contour feathers from wood pigeons Columba palumbus) placed directly on the ground each week.


Referenced papers

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. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.