An experimental approach to understanding the use of mistletoe as a nest substrate for birds: nest predation.

Stuart Cooney, David Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research has documented an unprecedented diversity of birds using mistletoes as nest-sites, and a strong preference for nesting in mistletoes has recently been demonstrated for some species. The consequences and underlying reasons for this behaviour have not been evaluated, and it is unclear whether nests in mistletoes confer advantages compared with other available substrates. Nest predation is often cited as the most important factor regulating many bird populations and is thought to influence all aspects of nest-site selection. To evaluate whether nest predation may play a role in the widespread use of mistletoe as a nest-site, we conducted an artificial nest predation experiment in a eucalypt woodland in southern New South Wales, Australia. Artificial nests were modelled on noisy friarbird (Philemon corniculatus: Meliphagidae) nests, baited with a single quail egg and checked after four days. We used logistic regression to model the rate of depredation between plant substrates, and demonstrate that, in this experiment, mistletoe nests experienced a lower proportion of predation than eucalypt nests (51.5% versus 63.8% respectively). This finding suggests that predation may influence the widespread use of mistletoe as a nest-site in a range of habitats and regions. In addition to clarifying priorities for further work on mistletoe nesting, this finding has implications for studies of nest-site selection generally, with researchers encouraged to supplement between-substrate comparisons with direct measurements of within-substrate variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalWildlife Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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