Nest monitoring does not affect nesting success of Whinchats Saxicola rubetra

Border, Jennifer A. and Atkinson, Lydia R. and Henderson, Ian G. and Hartley, Ian R. (2018) Nest monitoring does not affect nesting success of Whinchats Saxicola rubetra. Ibis, 160 (3). pp. 624-633. ISSN 0019-1019

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It is important to assess the effect that research activities may have on animals in the wild, especially when key parameters, such as breeding success, could potentially be influenced by observer activity. For birds, some studies have suggested that nest monitoring can increase the chances of nest failure due to predation, whereas others suggest that human nest visits may actually deter mammalian predators. Nest monitoring visits can also influence breeding success more indirectly by altering parental provisioning behaviour. Here, the influence of monitoring activities on nest success was examined in a ground-nesting grassland bird, the Whinchat Saxicola rubetra. During the egg phase, a sample of nests were not visited between the initial finding event and the estimated hatching date; instead, the nest status was assessed at a distance. Daily survival rates (DSR) for these nests were compared with that of nests visited every 2 days. During the nestling phase, the effects of observer nest visits on parental provisioning behaviour were determined. Nest visits were found not to affect egg DSR significantly, and parental provisioning was disrupted for a maximum of 20 min (0.52% of the nestling period) following an observer visit. Given the variation in response to nest visits across species, we suggest that consideration should be given to observer impact in all studies where predation risk is high. Here, we illustrate a method for researchers to assess the impact of their nest visits to ensure they are not biasing estimates of breeding success.

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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Border, J. A., Atkinson, L. R., Henderson, I. G. and Hartley, I. R. (2018), Nest monitoring does not affect nesting success of Whinchats Saxicola rubetra. Ibis, 160: 624-633. doi:10.1111/ibi.12574 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
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12 Dec 2018 11:04
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 01:17