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Nest-boxes for Common Swifts Apus apus as compensatory measures in the context of building renovation: efficacy and predictors of occupancy



Currently, renovation and thermal insulation of buildings is happening at a high rate in many European countries, driven in part by the political aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, building renovations often lead to a loss of structures, such as accessible cavities, on which synanthropic species, for example house-nesting birds, depend. In Germany, due to legislative regulations, it is a common practice to install nest-boxes as compensation for destroyed nest sites of birds. However, studies on the efficacy of such measures remain sparse. We monitored the occupancy of 477 compensatory nest-boxes for Common Swifts Apus apus, predominantly placed on renovated prefabricated buildings in a city in Germany. We found 24.3% of the boxes occupied by Swifts. On most buildings, the number of occupied boxes was as high as or even higher than the assumed number of breeding sites prior to renovation. Furthermore, in a district where nearly all buildings had been renovated in the past 10 years, we recorded a remarkably high density of Swifts breeding in nest-boxes. Using boosted regression trees, we analysed whether eight different nest-box properties influenced box occupation probability. The number of neighbouring boxes was the most important. Additionally, box age, facade orientation, city district, relative and absolute height, and manner of installation (external/internal) also played a role. Between different nest-box types, we found only negligible differences in occupation probability. Our findings suggest that installing nest-boxes is likely to be an appropriate measure to compensate for nesting sites of Swifts lost during building renovations. Based on our results, we recommend mounting the boxes a few metres apart from each other and close to the roof edge to maximise success. Further studies should be carried out to assess whether our results and conclusions can be confirmed in other situations.


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