Nest box programs are frequently implemented for the conservation of cavity-nesting birds, but their effectiveness is rarely evaluated in comparison to birds not using nest boxes. In the European Palearctic, Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus populations are both of high conservation concern and are strongly associated with nest box programs in heavily managed landscapes. We used a 21-year monitoring dataset collected on 753 nesting attempts by Red-footed Falcons in unmanaged natural or semi-natural habitats to provide basic information on this poorly known species; to evaluate long-term demographic trends; and to evaluate response of demographic parameters of Red-footed Falcons to environmental factors including use of nest boxes. We observed significant differences among years in laying date, offspring loss, and numbers of fledglings produced, but not in egg production. Of these four parameters, offspring loss and, to a lesser extent, number of fledglings exhibited directional trends over time. Variation in laying date and in numbers of eggs were not well explained by any one model, but instead by combinations of models, each with informative terms for nest type. Nevertheless, laying in nest boxes occurred 2.10 ± 0.70 days earlier than in natural nests. In contrast, variation in both offspring loss and numbers of fledglings produced were fairly well explained by a single model including terms for nest type, nest location, and an interaction between the two parameters (65% and 81% model weights respectively), with highest offspring loss in nest boxes on forest edges. Because, for other species, earlier laying dates are associated with more fit individuals, this interaction highlighted a possible ecological trap, whereby birds using nest boxes on forest edges lay eggs earlier but suffer greater offspring loss and produce lower numbers of fledglings than do those in other nesting settings. If nest boxes increase offspring loss for Red-footed Falcons in heavily managed landscapes where populations are at greater risk, or for the many other species of rare or endangered birds supported by nest box programs, these processes could have important demographic and conservation consequences.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Demographic consequences of nest box use for Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus in Central Asia|
|Contributing office(s)||Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center|