Evaluation of artificial nests as a conservation tool for three forest-dwelling raptors


  • Editor: Todd Katzner


Forest age structure has become younger and the amount of old forest has decreased due to intensive forestry in Northern Europe. Consequently, large forest-dwelling hawks may lack nest sites as they need large trees to support their nests. Construction of artificial nests has been a globally adopted conservation measure to provide nest sites for several raptors, but the impact of this practice has seldom been evaluated. We compared the nesting success of northern goshawk Accipiter gentilis, common buzzard Buteo buteo, and honey buzzard Pernis apivorus in natural and artificial nests based on long-term data in Finland. The probability of successful nesting of goshawk and common buzzard was lower in artificial nests, whereas no difference was found in the nesting success of honey buzzard between the nest types. Brood size did not differ between natural and artificial nests in successful nests of any of the three species. Finally, distances to anthropogenic features had no effect on nesting success. These results indicate that hawks switching from natural to artificial nests are potentially lured to an ecological trap with higher risk of nesting failure. However, breeding at artificial nests, even with lower success than in natural nests, can still add to the population, if otherwise nonbreeding individuals settle to nest. It should be investigated which part of the population breeds in artificial nests and whether the site selection for artificial nests needs revision. Our results emphasize the importance of monitoring and evaluation of well-intentioned conservation efforts.