Ornis Hungarica. vol.28(2). (2020) p.135-145.
Does human hair attract or deter potential ground nest predators?
The nests of rare and threatened bird and reptile species that breed on the ground are often attempted to be protected from predators with fences, grids, and various repellent materials. Results of some experiments refer to the repellent function of human scent, whereas others suggest that it has an attractive role. We aimed to investigate how effectively ground nests can be protected from predators if human hair is placed around nests. We performed the experiment in a riverine oak-elm-ash forest using 90 artificial nests, each with 1 quail and 1 plasticine egg: 30 nests were protected with a game fence, 30 nests were surrounded with human hair and 30 nests were unprotected (control). During the 24 days, predators damaged 23% of the nests protected by a game fence, 40% of unprotected nests and 47% of the nests surrounded with hair. The daily survival rate of quail eggs in nests protected with a game fence was significantly higher than the ones in the nests surrounded with human hair. Only 18% of the quail eggs and 36% of plasticine eggs were damaged. Such difference can be explained by the fact that small-bodied birds and mammals could pass through the game fence and left traces on plasticine eggs but they were unable to crack the shell of quail eggs. Within the game fence, denser vegetation can provide better nesting conditions and result in greater breeding success. The repellent role of human hair has not been proved, on the contrary, in some cases we have observed signs of its attractant role, such as small-bodied birds took hair away for nest building.