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Effects of invasive woody plants on avian nest site selection and nesting success in shrublands

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Schlossberg, S.; King, D.I.

Year Published



Animal Conservation. 13(3): 286-293.


Exotic, invasive plants are a growing conservation problem. Birds frequently use invasive plants as nest substrates, but effects of invasives on avian nesting success have been equivocal in past studies. In 2004 and 2005, we assessed effects of invasive woody plants on avian nest-site selection and nesting success in western Massachusetts shrublands. At the nest scale, we tested the effects of invasive versus native substrates on nesting success as well as differences among individual invasive species. At the patch scale, we tested effects of invasive prevalence on nesting success in natives and invasives. We found that, as a whole, shrubland birds preferred invasive substrates. Of two species sufficiently abundant for individual analysis, gray catbirds Dumetella carolinensis preferred invasive substrates, but chestnut-sided warblers Dendroica pensylvanica showed no preference for natives or invasives. At the nest scale, nests of gray catbirds placed in invasive substrates were more successful than those in natives. Chestnut-sided warblers and all species combined, however, had equal nest success in invasives and natives. We found no differences in nest success for nests in different species of invasive substrates or in invasive substrates with and without thorns. At the scale of the patch, nest success in invasive substrates increased with the prevalence of invasives on a site. Nest success in native plants did not change with invasive prevalence. We attribute this finding to the tendency for thickets of invasive plants to be larger on sites with more invasive cover. These findings illustrate the complex interaction of different factors that can determine how invasive plants affect avian nesting success. We conclude that control of invasive woody plants should be neutral for most shrubland birds.


birds; shrublands;invasive plants; nest site selection; nest predation


Schlossberg, S.; King, D.I. 2010. Effects of invasive woody plants on avian nest site selection and nesting success in shrublands. Animal Conservation 13: 286–293

Last updated on: October 2, 2014