Mammalian nest predation induces small-scale nest site switching in territorial tawny owl (Strix aluco) females

Patrik Karell, Peter Ericsson, Daniel Ericsson, Kent Haglund, Chiara Morosinotto, Lars Ove Nilsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nest predation is a major factor affecting fitness in birds. Individuals are expected to respond to nest predation by selecting safe nesting sites and by moving away from risky sites. Thereby, perceived risk or experience of predation should lead to shifts in nest site selection. Experimental studies on behavioural and life-history consequences of nest predation have traditionally manipulated the risk of predation and studied the immediate consequences thereof. Fewer studies have however analysed the behavioural consequences of perceived predation risk to future breeding events and we know little about how sedentary territorial species respond to nest predation. We experimentally manipulated tawny owl (Strix aluco) breeding nest site choice by providing an additional alternative nest box within the territory, nearby the original nesting sites. The new nest box was provided either after a successful reproductive event (control group), or following a failed reproductive event caused by a nest predator (i.e. pine marten Martes martes, predated group). We show that tawny owls generally switched to the alternative nest site in the current breeding season when the nest was predated in the previous year, whereas they used the same nest after a successful breeding. We found no effects of previous predation experience on the probability to breed nor on clutch size. We conclude that small scale movement within the territory are used by tawny owls to minimize predation risk and that the owls use information on past predation events and nest failure to optimize their breeding decision in the following season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalOrnis Fennica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology


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