New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2008) 32(2): 155- 165

Nest survival of birds in an urban environment in New Zealand

Research Article
Yolanda van Heezik 1*
Karin Ludwig  
Sarah Whitwell 2
Ian G. McLean 3
  1. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
  2. Ecology and Conservation Group, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 102 904, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. Environmental Planning Department, Rotorua District Council, Private Bag 3029, Rotorua, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

We compared nest survival of three urban bird species over two seasons in Dunedin City: silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis), a recent self-introduced native that is very abundant; blackbirds (Turdus merula), an abundant exotic species; and fantails (Rhipidura fuliginosa), a native species that occurs in relatively low numbers in some urban habitats. We also used artificial nests to compare nest predation rates between residential gardens and bush fragments isolated within a residential matrix. Silvereye nests had highest survival (daily survival probability = 0.98), with early nests and nests situated higher in trees having higher survival. Blackbird nest survival was lower (0.966); higher nests had better survival. Fantail nest survival varied significantly between years (0.908 in 2006–07 and 0.987 in 2007–08). Predation was a major cause of fantail nest failure, despite fantail nests being highest off the ground (mean = 4.2 m cf. 2.8 m for blackbirds and 2.2 m for silvereyes). Mortality of fantails during the week following fledging was high (41%). Low nest and juvenile survival may result in low abundance of fantails in Dunedin City. Predation of artificial nests was unaffected by nest placement (central or peripheral in the tree/shrub) and was the same in gardens as in bush fragments, with rats (Rattus rattus), possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and possibly mice (Mus musculus) identified as nest predators.