Nest design in a changing world: Great tit Parus major nests from a Mediterranean city environment as a case study
- First Online:
- 39 Downloads
Investigations of urbanization effects on birds have focused mainly on breeding traits expressed after the nest-building stage (e.g. first-egg date, clutch size, breeding success, and offspring characteristics). Urban studies largely ignored how and why the aspects of nest building might be associated with the degree of urbanization. As urban environments are expected to present novel environmental changes relative to rural environments, it is important to evaluate how nest-building behavior is impacted by vegetation modifications associated with urbanization. To examine nest design in a Mediterranean city environment, we allowed urban great tits (Parus major) to breed in nest boxes in areas that differed in local vegetation cover. We found that different measures of nest size or mass were not associated with vegetation cover. In particular, nests located adjacent to streets with lower vegetation cover were not smaller or lighter than nests in parks with higher vegetation cover. Nests adjacent to streets contained more pine needles than nests in parks. In addition, in nests adjacent to streets, nests from boxes attached to pine trees contained more pine needles than nests from boxes attached to other trees. We suggest that urban-related alterations in vegetation cover do not directly impose physical limits on nest size in species that are opportunistic in the selection of nesting material. However, nest composition as reflected in the use of pine needles was clearly affected by habitat type and the planted tree species present, which implies that rapid habitat change impacts nest composition. We do not exclude that urbanization might impact other aspects of nest building behaviour not covered in our study (e.g. costs of searching for nest material), and that the strengths of the associations between urbanization and nest structures might differ among study populations or species.