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Spider assemblages in bird burrows

  • Petr Heneberg
  • Milan Řezáč
  • Markéta Nováková
Short Communication


The arachnofauna of bird burrows, which are excavated in the soil, is incompletely understood. The bird burrows have a potential to serve as refugia for cavity-adopting spider species particularly in anthropogenic habitats formed by sand mining, which otherwise suffer from a limited availability of other types of cavities. We hypothesized that the presence of abundant food resources and safe shelter in bird burrows excavated in the soil allow the existence of specialized assemblage of spiders, similarly to those known from cavities and nests made by other birds and mammals. Here we examined 353 burrows that had been previously occupied by Riparia riparia, Merops apiaster or Passer montanus. The burrows were examined in early May and early September in 24 Czech sand pits and construction sites. The burrows hosted a species-rich assemblage of spiders that, however, occurred at low abundances. The spiders were represented prevalently by species known to have distributions centered in anthropogenic and urban habitats, including species that were never observed outside of heated buildings in the study area and species that only were previously known from mammalian burrows and loess and karstic soil crevices. Spider assemblages strongly differed between bird burrows and cavities and nests made by other birds and mammals. The species composition and overall low abundance of spiders in bird burrows was unexpected and was in strong contrast to previous observations of spider assemblages in cavities and nests made by other birds and mammals. Concluded, we rejected the initial hypothesis and, instead, we have shown that bird burrows are rarely occupied by spiders and if occupied, the spider species that adopt old bird burrows and the nests inside of them predominantly consist of species known to have their distribution centered to anthropogenic and urban habitats.


Anthropogenic habitats Burrowing birds Cavities Sand pits Subterranean habitats 



We thank Ivan Literák for his support of the fieldwork, the landlords and quarry operators for allowing access to the examined habitats, and the nature conservation authorities for allowing access to the protected areas.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

11756_2018_36_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (26 kb)
Online Resource 1 (XLSX 25.6 kb): Table S1 List of sampling sites, the number of bird burrows examined, identification of species to which the examined nests belonged, and a detailed overview of the spider species found, with the indication of juvenile (j), adult male (m) and adult female (f) individuals
11756_2018_36_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (20 kb)
Table S2 List of species found in the bird burrows in the Czech Republic and Slovakia (present study and Krištofík et al. 1994), bird nest boxes in the Czech Republic (Černecká et al. 2017), adherent cup nests of birds in Slovakia (120 nests of Delichon urbicum - Svatoň 1985), other bird nests in Slovakia, Poland and Serbia (135 nests of Remiz pendulinus - Krištofík et al. 1993; 28 nests of Lanius collurio - Tryjanowski et al. 2001; 40 nests of Acrocephalus arundinaceus - Mérő et al. 2014), mammalian soil burrows in the Czech Republic and Ukraine (742 nests of Apodemus flavicollis, Apodemus sylvaticus, Clethrionomys glareolus, Microtus arvalis, Pitymys subterraneus, Sorex araneus, Sorex minutus and Talpa europaea - Vysotskaja 1966, 1974, 1978; Sklyar and Popov 1972; Miller and Buchar 1997), mammalian soil burrows outside the study region, in South Africa (320 nests of Gerbilliscus brantsii, Orycteropus afer, Pedetes capensis and Phacochoerus africanus - Heidger 1988), nests of synanthropic mammals in the Ukraine (50 nests of Mus musculus - Sklyar and Popov 1972), squirell nests in the Czech Republic (65 nests of Sciurus vulgaris - Miller and Buchar 1997), and records from the bodies of mammals (Vysotskaja 1966, 1974, 1978; Sklyar and Popov 1972). We indicated abundances of spiders in all four types of bird nests and burrows, while we indicated only the presence/absence data for spiders from mammalian nests and burrows as most of previous studies on mammals did not indicate the species-specific abundances of spiders


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Copyright information

© Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Third Faculty of MedicineCharles UniversityCZ-100 00 PragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Biodiversity LabCrop Research InstituteCZ-161 06 PragueCzech Republic
  3. 3.Department of Biology and Wildlife Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and EcologyUniversity of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences BrnoCZ-612 42 BrnoCzech Republic

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