Grüebler, M. U., H. Schuler, P. Horch & R. Spaar (2012)

The effectiveness of conservation measures to enhance nest survival in a meadow bird suffering from anthropogenic nest loss.

Further information

Biol. Conserv. 146: 197–203



The main reason for meadow bird declines is supposed to be the intensification of grassland management with earlier first harvest dates and more frequent harvests, resulting in high nest destruction rates. To increase productivity of meadow bird populations in intensified grassland areas a delay of mowing date and individual nest protection measures have been proposed. However, for ground-nesting songbirds such as the whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) the effectiveness of such measures remains widely unknown. In particular, if nest predation rate is high, measures to protect nests from agricultural destruction alone might be questionable. Here, we quantify whinchat nest survival of (1) unprotected nests situated in early mown meadows, (2) protected nests situated in early mown meadows, and (3) nests situated in late mown meadows. Analyses considered the fact that successful and unsuccessful nests are not found with equal probabilities. Periods of reduced nest survival were associated with mowing periods in the different types of meadows. In early mown meadows nest survival rates were low (S < 0.1), and both conservation measures, individual nest protection and delayed mowing, resulted in significantly increased nest survival rates (S > 0.7). Individual nest protection cannot avoid changes in habitat quality of intensively managed meadows, and therefore is only suitable as small-scale and short-term measure to increase nest success until a high portion of late mown meadows is established. Thus, we suggest that a combination of the two measures applied to intensified grassland fields should be provided to maintain viable sizes of endangered meadow bird populations.
Keywords: Grassland ecology, Individual nest protection, Mowing regime, Reproductive success, Saxicola rubetra, Whincha