The relationship between introduced European Starlings and the reproductive activities of Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows in British Columbia, Canada
Koch, AJ and Martin, K and Aitken, KEH, The relationship between introduced European Starlings and the reproductive activities of Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows in British Columbia, Canada, Ibis: the international journal of avian science, 154, (3) pp. 590-600. ISSN 0019-1019 (2012) [Refereed Article]
The European Starling Sturnus vulgaris is an introduced species in North America and is an aggressive competitor for tree cavity nest-sites. Starlings are commonly considered to influence nest-site selection and reproductive success of native cavity-nesting species negatively. We examined the relationship between Starling nest density and the fecundity of two native secondary cavity-using passerines, Mountain Bluebird Sialia currucoides and Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor. We monitored a total of 622 nests (approximately equal numbers for each of the three species) in woodpecker-excavated and naturally occurring cavities in 29 small forest groves in central British Columbia, Canada, between 2000 and 2009. The dimensions of cavities used and the timing of nest initiation overlapped for all species, although Starlings initiated clutches earliest. Mixed-effects models were used to assess whether nest abundance, clutch size or nest success were affected directly by Starling nest abundance, or indirectly via a shift in cavity selection or timing of breeding. Starlings and Mountain Bluebirds showed inverse trends in nest abundance. Mountain Bluebird clutch sizes were smaller if they were initiated later in the breeding season. There was weak evidence that Tree Swallow clutch size decreased with cavity depth when Starling nests were abundant, and increased with cavity depth where there were few Starling nests. We conclude that despite the aggressive nature of this exotic cavity-nester, the influence of Starlings on native secondary cavity-nesting passerines is modest where cavities are abundant.
cavity nesters, fecundity, interspecific competition, niche separation, tree hollows