Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 615–630 | Cite as

Predation of artificial bird nests in suburban gardens of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • Lindsay Patterson
  • Riddhika Kalle
  • Colleen Downs


As urbanization increases, the identification of nest predators becomes important for avian conservation and management of urban wildlife communities. We investigated bird nest predation using artificial nests in urban areas of the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province of South Africa. From June 2013 through February 2014 we installed seventy-five artificial nests in 25 suburban gardens in the Ethekwini and Msunduzi municipalities of KZN. Euplectes spp. nests were used and baited with two quail-sized, hand-made, silicon eggs. These were placed in residential gardens and monitored by camera traps for 2-weeks in winter, spring and summer respectively. Generally bird nesting occurs throughout the year in KZN’s subtropical climate, with some avoidance during the autumn season. Therefore, experiments were not conducted during autumn, as fresh nests were not available for use. Overall the rate of predation on artificial nests was 25 % (n = 19), with vervet monkeys Ceropithecus aethiops pygerythrus predating 20 % (n = 17) of the nests while domestic cats Felis catus predated 3 % (n = 2) of nests. Nest predation was significantly higher in the winter season, with 79 % of depredations occurring in winter (n = 15), 16 % in spring (n = 3) and 5 % in summer (n = 1), and in areas with less canopy cover. Our results suggest that vervet monkeys may have a negative impact on nesting birds in urban environments, however, in order to assess the rate of predation experiments on natural nests coupled with information on fledgling success is deemed necessary to investigate avian population declines.


Nest predation Vervet monkey Predation rate Urbanisation Domestic cat 



We are most grateful to those that allowed use of their gardens as experimental sites; A. Dickinson, S. Birnie, J. Beater, D. Birch, the Landman family, L. Lewis, I. Bertolli, L.L. Roberts, K. Richardson, R. Laher, L. Frescura, W. and S. Friedman, J. Senogles and family, F. Amos, G. Burrows, L. Gray, F. Mann, L. Oosthuizen, J. Humphrey, L. van der Spek and A. Taylor. Further thanks go to A. Landman and C. Harries for their valued support in assisting with fieldwork and analysis of data. We are grateful to the University of KwaZulu-Natal for funding. We thank the two reviewers for their valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa

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