Effect of Plastic on Predation of Bird Nests
Level of Education of Students Involved
Arts and Sciences
As humans continue to produce more plastic, more and more plastic and other anthropogenic material is being introduced to the environment. Among other problems, plastic and anthropogenic materials in nests can harm birds through entanglement, ingestion, a decrease in parasites, and possibly higher visibility to predators. The goal of this research is to study the effect of plastic may have on predation risk. In the fall, natural robin and cardinal nests were acquired, and artificial nests were created out of grape vines, straw, pine needles and mud. Half of the nests were placed in an environment without any plastic, and three strips of white polyethylene plastic were added to the other half. Additionally, artificial eggs were created out of non-toxic modeling clay, and three were included with each nest. The nests were placed in low trees and shrubs on campus and checked two to three times a day. The time until predation and type of predator was recorded. Overall, 74% of the nests were attacked with more bird predation than mammal predation. We found that the time until predation was significantly longer for nests with plastic (n=11, t=2.3, p<.05). This experiment took place in the fall, and we are now repeating it during the spring breeding season using old nests collected during the winter. An increase to time till predator attack on nests containing plastic suggest birds may incorporate white polyethylene in their nests as a predator deterrent.
Panfil, Sophia; Torgerson, Elissa; Unzicker, Gabrielle; and Eberhardt, Laurie PhD, "Effect of Plastic on Predation of Bird Nests" (2023). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 1160.