Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Provide nesting material for wild birds

How is the evidence assessed?

Study locations

Key messages

  • 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.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. 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

    Study and other actions tested
  2. 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.

    Study and other actions tested
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. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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