An artificial bird nest experiment in urban environments: Lessons from a school-based citizen science programme

Ana Gracanin, Erin Roger, Andrew C. Katsis, Luke O'Loughlin, Nathan J. Emery, Joanne F. Ocock, James C. O’Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Maintaining suitable vegetation within urban environments is crucial for wildlife conservation in the face of anthropogenic habitat change. Here, we report on a citizen science project, involving students from seven schools across south-eastern Australia, that investigated the effectiveness of urban vegetation as habitat for bird nests. The ‘nest concealment hypothesis’ posits that vegetation should obscure the nest from predator detection, thus reducing the likelihood of predation. To test this, participating school-aged citizen scientists constructed artificial nests, which were placed in garden trees within school grounds and monitored for signs of predation. We found no evidence to support the nest concealment hypothesis, with no relationship between the density of vegetation immediately surrounding a nest and its likelihood of predation (binomial model: χ2 1 = 1.714, P = 0.190). It was observed that 80% of the nests experienced predation. This aligns with mounting evidence suggesting that other factors, such as olfaction and adult defence, may be more important factors in the protection of bird nests. It is important to note that artificial nests are unreliable, and therefore, the veracity of the overall conclusions is limited. However, in conducting this experiment, we demonstrate the suitability of this method as a school-based citizen science activity. This study exemplifies that field-based experiments can used to engage future generations with conservation science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-528
Number of pages6
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date10 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


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