Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 159, Issue 3, pp 667–673 | Cite as

Nest-site interference competition with House Sparrows affects breeding success and parental care in Great Tits

  • Aya Goldshtein
  • Shai Markman
  • Yossi Leshem
  • Maya Puchinsky
  • Motti Charter
Original Article


Although interspecific competition is suggested to be one of the major forces dictating community structure, interspecific interference competition for nest sites in birds has been reported mainly from observational studies. Here, we asked whether interference by the larger House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) could reduce breeding success and parental behavior in the smaller Great Tit (Parus major) following clutch completion, by experimentally allowing House Sparrows to access half of the Great Tit nest boxes. Significantly more tit pairs failed to raise young in nest boxes that House Sparrows were able to enter during their breeding period compared to those that were not able to do so, because House Sparrows usurped 77.8% of the Great Tit nests. Great Tits also increased the duration of nest defense in the presence of House Sparrows. As the outcome of interference competition may lead to breeding failure, birds should necessarily evolve ways to avoid nest competitors either by selecting nests that restrict access to their larger competitors and/or by initiating breeding earlier. Conservation efforts should be directed toward attaching a metal restrictor plate around the entrance of nest boxes to prevent woodpeckers from enlarging the entrance and larger species from entering nests.


Interspecific interactions Nest failure Parental behavior Community structure Nest box Usurpation 


Konkurrenz um Nistplätze mit dem Haussperling beeinträchtigt den Bruterfolg und die elterliche Brutpflege von Kohlmeisen

Obwohl zwischenartliche Konkurrenz angeblich eine der wichtigsten treibenden Kräfte hinter der Gemeinschaftsstruktur ist, wurde zwischenartliche Konkurrenz um Nistplätze bei Vögeln bislang in erster Linie nur mit reinen Beobachtungen beschrieben. In dieser Untersuchung prüften wir, ob Störungen durch den Haussperling (Passer domesticus) den Bruterfolg und die Brutpflege von Kohlmeisen (Parus major) beeinträchtigen können. Nach Komplettierung der Gelege der Kohlmeisen ermöglichten wir in einem Experiment den Haussperlingen Zugang zur Hälfte der vorhandenen Meisenkästen. In diesen Nestern waren signifikant mehr Meisenpaare nicht in der Lage, ihre Jungen aufzuziehen, als in Nestern ohne Zugang von Haussperlingen, weil die Haussperlinge 77,8% dieser Nistkästen übernahmen. Waren Haussperlinge in der Nähe, verbrachten die Kohlmeisen auch mehr Zeit mit der Verteidigung ihrer Gelege. Da diese Art der Konkurrenz zu Brut-Misserfolgen führen kann, sollten Vögel Methoden entwickeln, solche Nestkonkurrenten zu vermeiden, entweder durch die Auswahl von Nisthöhlen, die es ihren größeren Konkurrenten unmöglich macht einzudringen und/oder durch einen früheren Brutbeginn. Um zu vermeiden, dass Spechte das Flugloch erweitern, und so größere Arten die Höhlen übernehmen, können Metallplatten um die Einfluglöcher angebracht werden.



Special thanks to Jonathan Chazan who took an active part throughout the entire study; to Shaul Aviel, Kobi Meyrom, and Shai Halevi for their advice and technical assistance; to Ori Peleg, Avi Koplovich, Mary Weber, Shir Asher, and Nati Wein for field assistance; to Israel Goldshtein and Sergio Chazan for help in building the nest boxes; and to Naomi Paz for editorial assistance. We thank Tel Aviv University, the Jewish National Fund, and the Smollar-Winnikov Scholarship Fund for funding this research.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life SciencesTel-Aviv UniversityTel-AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural SciencesUniversity of Haifa, OranimTivonIsrael
  3. 3.Shamir Research InstituteUniversity of HaifaKatzrinIsrael

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