Nest monitoring does not affect nesting success of Whinchats Saxicola rubetra

Whinchat - Edmund Fellowes

Author(s): Border, J.A., Atkinson, L.R., Henderson, I.G., Hartley, I.R.

Published: 3 December 2017


Journal: IBIS

Digital Identifier No. (DOI): 10.1111/ibi.12574

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A new paper, resulting from a collaborative study between BTO and Lancaster University showed that monitoring nests has no effect on daily survival rates of Whinchat nestlings. To ensure that monitoring efforts do not affect survival rate of nestlings and young birds, it is important to assess their impact. Nest monitoring could potentially lead predators to the nest or cause parents to desert or reduce parental care effort to their nestlings. This paper investigated 39 nests to determine whether monitoring has an adverse effect on daily survival rate in Whinchats at Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

Nests were either visited only once upon their initial detection, or every two days during the incubation period. The visited nests did not have a lower survival rate than the non-visited nests, suggesting that there are no adverse effects of monitoring on incubation.
During the nestling stage, the nests were monitored once a day on three consecutive days, by using a video camera to record the parents’ behaviour. This part of the study found that nest disturbance by setting up monitoring equipment temporarily reduced the feeding behaviour of the parents, but this only added up to 0.52% of total nestling time; a non-significant portion of the total time a nestling spends with its parents. 

In conclusion, this study found that monitoring Whinchat nests every two to three days has no negative effect on survival rate, and although birds can become slightly disturbed, they will soon resettle into normal behaviour. The authors emphasise that precautions to minimise potential impact on nests should always be taken and that guidelines for nest monitoring should always be adhered to. 

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