Feeding ungulates increases birds nest predation


Research from Southern Poland shows a relationship between feeding of ungulates, such as bison, deer or elk, and predation on ground breeding birds’ nests. Although situation here might differ from rewilding projects elsewhere in Europe, nest predators such as jays, mice, voles of foxes can be found throughout the continent.

Feeding of ungulates is common practice in many European countries. Reasons differ from prevention of damage on forestry practice to attracting ungulates for hunting. In most case feeding is happing for months at a time at fixed locations. Besides feeding elk, deer or bison, feeding stations also attract jays, mice, voles, ravens, wild boar, bears, badgers and foxes as is shown in the Polish investigation. All are potential nest predators.

Methodology included the usage of artificial birds’ nests, mimicking those of hazel grouse, an important ground breeding bird in this area. Results show a clear difference in nest predation between presence and absence of ungulate feeding. Nests in the vicinity of ungulate feeding were predated twice as often as nests absent ungulate feeding.

Although this research used artificial grouse nests, similar effects can be expected for other ground breeds birds such as geese, harriers, short-eared owl, ruffs, lapwings and many others, Best is to stop feeding of ungulates. When providing forage is somehow obligatory it is advised to remove forage several weeks before start of breeding season.

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