Ornis Hungarica. vol.29(2). (2021) p.107-121.
The orientation of nestboxes influences their occupation rates and the breeding success of passerine birds
Nestboxes are widely provided as nesting sites for hole-nesting birds, yet the relative contribution of nestbox characteristics and habitat quality in determining the occupancy rates and breeding success of birds remains unclear. We provided nestboxes in deciduous woodlands in England and examined if those nestboxes were erected in random orientations and whether the orientation of nestboxes and habitat quality, in the form of tree density, influenced their occupation by, and breeding success of, Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), Great Tits (Parus major) and Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). We found that first, the nestboxes were erected non-randomly orientated towards the north and east, and away from the south and west. Second, the occupation rates of none of the species was related to nestbox orientation or tree density. Third, the breeding success of neither Blue Tits nor Great Tits varied with tree density but did vary with nestbox orientation. Blue Tit hatching success and fledging success was higher in nestboxes facing south than in other directions whilst in Great Tits, clutch sizes, hatching success and fledging success was higher in nestboxes facing south than nestboxes facing other directions. Our results suggest that nestbox characteristics, such as orientation, have more influence on the reproductive success of passerines than habitat quality. This further suggests that conservationists should orientate nestboxes southwards in order to maximise their benefit to birds in temperate climates during the breeding season.