Influence of nest box design on internal microclimate: Comparisons of plastic prototypes

Michael N. Callan, David M. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Hollow-dependent fauna are declining worldwide, due primarily to the widespread clearing of hollow-bearing trees. Artificial cavities such as timber and plywood boxes are commonly used to increase hollow availability, yet there is increasing evidence that they are poor facsimiles of natural cavities, characterized by lower insulative properties and a shorter field life. We evaluated whether plastic materials could create a nest box with a stable thermal profile that more closely resembles the complex shapes and textures of natural tree hollows while containing fewer mechanical joins that represent potential failure points when installed. We developed three sets of prototype nest boxes comprising various combinations of plastic density (10%, 25% and 50%), insulation (single vs. double wall with or without sawdust between them), nesting chamber (with or without timber inserts) and bedding (with or without decomposed heartwood) and compared their thermal performance in a temperature-controlled laboratory to compare internal temperature and relative humidity. We found double-walled plastic nest box with an internal timber-lined chamber was best able to buffer ambient temperature fluctuations, consistently recording internal temperatures of 6+°C below maximum ambient temperature, maintaining high levels of relative humidity (76%–92%) when furnished with decomposed timber heartwood. This design also performed better during a simulated hot day; internal temperatures exhibiting twice the lag time of single-walled designs, noting that plastic density had little influence on internal conditions. While the recruitment and protection of hollow-bearing trees must be a priority, this work shows significant potential in improving the design and functionality of artificial hollows that are critical to the conservation of hollow-dependent species.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalAustral Ecology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


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