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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Guard nests to increase nest success Bird Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • A before-and-after study from Costa Rica found an increase in scarlet macaw Ara macau population following the monitoring of nests, along with several other interventions.
  • Two studies from Puerto Rico and New Zealand found that parrot nest success was higher or mortality reduced or nest success higher with intensive monitoring of nests, ompared to periods without monitoring. A study from New Zealand also found high overall nest success when nests were monitored.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A time-series study on nest success of Puerto Rican parrots Amazona vittata in the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico, between 1973 and 1989 (Lindsey 1992) found that the nest success of 71 Puerto Rican parrot Amazona vittata nests was 66% following the instigation of intensive nest monitoring in 1973, compared with an estimated 11–26% success of 19 nests before nest guarding (1955-72) and a predicted 38% success in 1973-80 had guarding not occurred. Threats to nests included the natural deterioration of nest cavities, predation, exoparasites, poor parental care, unviable eggs (replaced with captive-bred eggs), poor growth or unsuccessful fledging of chicks, human intrusion (three nests) and competition from other pairs. Some nests were affected by multiple threats.



A small before-and-after study in 1997 on Codfish Island (1,500 ha), New Zealand (Jansen 2005) found that remotely operated detonators successfully scared rats Rattus spp. from kakapo Strigops habroptilus nests on two occasions. In conjunction with intensive trapping and poisoning of rats on a grid system around six nests (see ‘Control mammalian predators on islands’), this ensured that no nests were lost to rats in 1997, compared with potentially unsustainable predation in the years preceding 1997. No adverse effects on kakapos were found.




A study on Codfish Island (1,500 ha), South Island, New Zealand, in 2002 (Jansen 2005) found that 24 kakapo Strigopus habroptilus nests that were monitored by volunteers produced 26 chicks, of which 24 fledged. Volunteers followed a strict set of protocols and reported to ‘controllers’ frequently to ensure eggs survived. The authors argue that reproduction would have been lower without the intensive monitoring that volunteers provided (and which would not have been possible financially with paid staff).



A before-and-after study in western Costa Rica (Vaughan et al. 2005) found an increase in a scarlet macaw Ara macau population from 185-225 individuals in 1990-4 to 225-265 in 1997-2003, following the protection of artificial and natural nesting cavities and several other interventions (see ‘Use education programmes and local engagement to reduce pressures on species’, ‘Promote sustainable alternative livelihoods based on species’, and ‘Provide artificial nesting sites’). In 1990-4 the population had been showing a 4%/year decline. This study is discussed in more detail in ‘Increase ‘on-the-ground’ protection to reduce unsustainable levels of exploitation’.



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.