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Natural cavity restoration as an alternative to nest box supplementation

Valera, Francisco, Václav, Radovan, Calero‐Torralbo, Miguel Ángel, Martínez, Teresa, Veiga, Jesús
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.1 pp. 220-227
Athene noctua, Coracias garrulus, birds, breeding, clutch size, fledglings, monitoring, nest boxes, nesting, nesting sites, sandstone
Nest box supplementation is widely used to increase nest‐site availability for cavity nesting animals but the analysis of its effects on individuals breeding in natural cavities is often neglected. This study offers a novel restoration technique to revert abandonment of natural breeding sites by a secondary cavity avian bird, the European roller (Coracias garrulus), and other ecologically similar species. We found that, after a program of nest box supplementation with ensuing monitoring, rollers gradually abandon nesting in natural and seminatural cavities in favor of nest boxes because the latter are of higher quality. We examine whether reducing the entrance size of natural and seminatural cavities improves their suitability for rollers. A 6‐year program reduced the diameter of the entrance of sandstone cavities and cavities in bridges. This led to a high occupancy (59%) of manipulated nest‐sites. Manipulated sites were most frequently occupied by rollers and little owls (Athene noctua) (31 and 18% of sites, respectively). Manipulation did not affect clutch size or fledgling success. We suggest that nest‐site diversity and nesting in natural cavities should be preserved to reduce nest box dependence. Our study illustrates the value of nest boxes when used alongside restoration of natural breeding sites and provides insights for the management of natural cavities.