The reproductive success of Blackbirds Turdus merula in relation to habitat structure and choice of nest site

Authors

  • B. J. HATCHWELL,

    Corresponding author
    1. Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford 0X1 3PS, UK
      *Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, P.O. Box 601, The University, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2UQ, UK
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  • D. E. CHAMBERLAIN,

    1. Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford 0X1 3PS, UK
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    • ‡British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thet-ford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK

  • C. M. PERRINS

    1. Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford 0X1 3PS, UK
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*Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, P.O. Box 601, The University, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2UQ, UK

Abstract

The reproductive success of a population of Blackbirds Turdus merula occupying farmland and woodland was studied over 3 years to investigate the effects of habitat on breeding success. Territory distribution was patchy in both farmland and woodland; some areas were unoccupied, while other areas were occupied at variable densities. Habitat structure appeared to influence occupation: the index of habitat complexity (“cover score”) was higher in occupied areas than in unoccupied areas and high-density territories had higher cover scores than low-density territories. However, habitat structure had no significant effect on reproductive success because the cover scores of territories where pairs were successful did not differ significantly from those of territories where there were no successful breeding attempts. There was no evidence of differential mortality rates in adults according to habitat. The height, bulk and exposure of c. 430 nests were measured to determine the effect of nest and nest-site characteristics on reproductive success. Nest exposure was the only feature that differed between successful and failed nests, successful nests being less exposed than failed nests. The major cause of breeding failure was nest predation, but the effect of nest exposure operated only during the laying and incubation period and not during the nestling period. The significance of habitat structure for variation in population densities between habitats is discussed.

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