Modified milk carton nest box for studies of prothonotary warblers

  • Published source details Fleming W.J. & Petit D.R. (1986) Modified milk carton nest box for studies of prothonotary warblers. Journal of Field Ornithology, 57, 313-315.


This study tested the uptake of a cheap, light and quick-to-construct design of nest box (made from milk cartons) by prothonotary warblers Protonotaria citrea in riverine habitat along the Tennessee River in Benton and Humphries Counties, Tennessee, south-eastern USA.

In early April 1984, 145 nest boxes were erected, each constructed from two empty, half-gallon (1.9 litre) cardboard milk cartons (see original paper for diagrams), with an entrance hole of around 3.8 cm diameter. Boxes were attached to trees using 2.5 cm wide strapping tape, and then lightly spray-painted with a dull grey or brown (non-toxic) paint.
Boxes were subsequently checked every 7–10 days through until early August to monitor occupancy by warblers, and revisited in April 1985 to check their condition.

Six boxes were destroyed (crushed by floating debris) during a flood at the start of the study, but the remaining boxes dried out quickly, and most were still in good condition. In total, 81 (56%) boxes were used by warblers during the 1984 breeding season, and although they were not monitored closely, hatching and fledging success appeared to be good, with just 1–2% of nests affected by predation.
Approximately 75% of boxes were found still to be in good condition in April 1985, and many of these were used again by warblers during the 1985 breeding season.
Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, which can be accessed from

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