The design of artificial nestboxes for the study of secondary hole-nesting birds: a review of methodological inconsistencies and potential biases

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The widespread use of artificial nestboxes has led to significant advances in our knowledge of the ecology, behaviour and physiology of cavity nesting birds, especially small passerines Nestboxes have made it easier to perform routine monitoring and experimental manipulation of eggs or nestlings, and also repeatedly to capture, identify and manipulate the parents However, when comparing results across study sites the use of nestboxes may also Introduce a potentially significant confounding variable in the form of differences in nestbox design amongst studies, such as their physical dimensions, placement height, and the way in which they are constructed and maintained However, the use of nestboxes may also introduce an unconsidered and potentially significant confounding variable clue to differences in nestbox design amongst studies, such as their physical dimensions, placement height, and the way in which they are constructed and maintained Here we review to what extent the characteristics of artificial nestboxes (e g size, shape, construction material, colour) are documented in the 'methods' sections of publications involving hole-nesting passerine birds using natural or excavated cavities or artificial nestboxes for reproduction and roosting Despite explicit previous recommendations that authors describe in detail the characteristics of the nestboxes used, we found that the description of nestbox characteristics in most recent publications remains poor and insufficient We therefore list the types of descriptive data that should be included in the methods sections of relevant manuscripts and justify this by discussing how variation in nestbox characteristics can affect or confound conclusions from nestbox studies We also propose several recommendations to improve the reliability and usefulness of research based on long-term studies of any secondary hole-nesting species using artificial nestboxes for breeding or roosting.


  • Marcel M. Lambrechts
  • Frank Adriaensen
  • Daniel R. Ardia
  • Alexandr V. Artemyev
  • Francisco Atienzar
  • Jerzy Banbura
  • Emilio Barba
  • Jean-Charles Bouvier
  • Jordi Camprodon
  • Caren B. Cooper
  • Russell D. Dawson
  • Marcel Eens
  • Tapio Eeva
  • Bruno Faivre
  • Laszlo Z. Garamszegi
  • Anne E. Goodenough
  • Andrew G. Gosler
  • Arnaud Gregoire
  • Simon C. Griffith
  • Lars Gustafsson
  • L. Scott Johnson
  • Wojciech Kania
  • Oskars Keiss
  • Paulo E. Llambias
  • Mark C. Mainwaring
  • Raivo Mand
  • Bruno Massa
  • Tomasz D. Mazgajski
  • Anders Pape Moller
  • Juan Moreno
  • Beat Naef-Daenzer
  • Ana C. Norte
  • Markku Orell
  • Ken A. Otter
  • Chan Ryul Park
  • Christopher M. Perrins
  • Jan Pinowski
  • Jiri Porkert
  • Jaime Potti
  • Vladimir Remes
  • Heinz Richner
  • Seppo Rytkonen
  • Ming-Tang Shiao
  • Bengt Silverin
  • Tore Slagsvold
  • Alberto Sorace
  • Martyn J. Stenning
  • Ian Stewart
  • Charles F. Thompson
  • Piotr Tryjanowski
  • Janos Torok
  • Arie J. van Noordwijk
  • David W. Winkler
  • Nadia Ziane
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences
  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
  • Ecology


  • tit, field experiments, birds, secondary cavity-nesting, passerines, nest sites, methods, nestboxes, flycatcher, Ficedula, Parus, Cyanistes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
JournalActa Ornithologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch