Effect of nest cavity morphology on reproductive success of a critically endangered bird

Date: 06, Apr, 2017
Author(s):   Stojanovic, D., Rayner, L., Webb, M., Heinsohn, R.
Publisher: Emu - Austral Ornithology

Population limitation is the outcome of cumulative and synergistic processes that act on species over multiple spatial scales. Tree cavity dependent animals are good case studies for exploring processes that potentially limit populations across multiple scales. Fine-scale cavity characteristics have important consequences for predator exclusion and fecundity, while broad-scale processes (food or habitat availability) can determine population viability. We considered the relative importance of cavity morphology in limiting the breeding success of a critically endangered secondary cavity nesting bird that is severely affected at broad scales by nest predation. Swift Parrots (Lathamus discolor) select nest cavities where the minimum entrance diameter is positively associated with cavity depth, floor diameter and maximum entrance diameter. These cavity characteristics are adaptive because they exclude native predators by physically preventing access to the nest chamber; only one introduced nest predator is able to overcome this passive nest defence. Introduced Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) could prey on Swift Parrot nests irrespective of nest cavity morphology. We found no effect of cavity morphology on the number of eggs laid or fledglings reared by Swift Parrots. This suggests that fine-scale nest cavity characteristics do not influence the nest success of Swift Parrots beyond their effectiveness in excluding native Tasmanian predators.