Variation in clutch size in relation to nest size in birds

Anders P. Møller, Frank Adriaensen, Alexandr Artemyev, Jerzy Bańbura, Emilio Barba, Clotilde Biard, Jacques Blondel, Zihad Bouslama, Jean Charles Bouvier, Jordi Camprodon, Francesco Cecere, Anne Charmantier, Motti Charter, Mariusz Cichoń, Camillo Cusimano, Dorota Czeszczewik, Virginie Demeyrier, Blandine Doligez, Claire Doutrelant, Anna DubiecMarcel Eens, Tapio Eeva, Bruno Faivre, Peter N. Ferns, Jukka T. Forsman, Eduardo García-Del-Rey, Aya Goldshtein, Anne E. Goodenough, Andrew G. Gosler, Iga Góźdź, Arnaud Grégoire, Lars Gustafsson, Ian R. Hartley, Philipp Heeb, Shelley A. Hinsley, Paul Isenmann, Staffan Jacob, Antero Järvinen, Rimvydas Juškaitis, Erkki Korpimäki, Indrikis Krams, Toni Laaksonen, Bernard Leclercq, Esa Lehikoinen, Olli Loukola, Arne Lundberg, Mark C. Mainwaring, Raivo Mänd, Bruno Massa, Tomasz D. Mazgajski, Santiago Merino, Cezary Mitrus, Mikko Mönkkönen, Judith Morales-Fernaz, Xavier Morin, Ruedi G. Nager, Jan Åke Nilsson, Sven G. Nilsson, Ana C. Norte, Markku Orell, Philippe Perret, Carla S. Pimentel, Rianne Pinxten, Ilze Priedniece, Marie Claude Quidoz, Vladimir Remeš, Heinz Richner, Hugo Robles, Seppo Rytkönen, Juan Carlos Senar, Janne T. Seppänen, Luís P. da Silva, Tore Slagsvold, Tapio Solonen, Alberto Sorace, Martyn J. Stenning, János Török, Piotr Tryjanowski, Arie J. van Noordwijk, Mikael von Numers, Wieslaw Walankiewicz, Marcel M. Lambrechts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nests are structures built to support and protect eggs and/or offspring from predators, parasites, and adverse weather conditions. Nests are mainly constructed prior to egg laying, meaning that parent birds must make decisions about nest site choice and nest building behavior before the start of egg-laying. Parent birds should be selected to choose nest sites and to build optimally sized nests, yet our current understanding of clutch size-nest size relationships is limited to small-scale studies performed over short time periods. Here, we quantified the relationship between clutch size and nest size, using an exhaustive database of 116 slope estimates based on 17,472 nests of 21 species of hole and non-hole-nesting birds. There was a significant, positive relationship between clutch size and the base area of the nest box or the nest, and this relationship did not differ significantly between open nesting and hole-nesting species. The slope of the relationship showed significant intraspecific and interspecific heterogeneity among four species of secondary hole-nesting species, but also among all 116 slope estimates. The estimated relationship between clutch size and nest box base area in study sites with more than a single size of nest box was not significantly different from the relationship using studies with only a single size of nest box. The slope of the relationship between clutch size and nest base area in different species of birds was significantly negatively related to minimum base area, and less so to maximum base area in a given study. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that bird species have a general reaction norm reflecting the relationship between nest size and clutch size. Further, they suggest that scientists may influence the clutch size decisions of hole-nesting birds through the provisioning of nest boxes of varying sizes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3583-3595
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Authors.


  • Hole nesting
  • Natural holes
  • Nest boxes
  • Reaction norm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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