Bird nests give up century-old rubbish secrets

Published:

About 900 bird nests, some dating back to the late 1800s, are helping USC researchers gain rare insights into how birds interact with human materials – both dangerous and safe.

The study team, led by USC Animal Ecology lecturers Dr Dominique Potvin and Dr Kathy Townsend, is analysing museum nest specimens at the Melbourne Museum and CSIRO’s Australian National Wildlife Collection in Canberra.

“We don’t have time machines to go back over 100 years to figure out how long animals have been using debris for nest building – these historical nests give us that opportunity,” Dr Potvin said.

“The nests are essentially a snapshot of animal behaviours from generations of animals long gone and there are not many other studies that can claim to do this,” she said. 

The research team, which includes visiting research student Fabiola Opitz of Germany, hopes to record geographical and historical patterns of human materials in nest building by birds. 

“The specimens have been sourced from all over Australia and some internationally and we believe this is a great use of an understudied and underused resource,” Dr Potvin said.

The study aims to determine whether nest-building materials have changed over time and how birds use potentially dangerous debris.

“Some human materials can injure birds without being ingested – fishing line for instance can get caught around bills, wings or feet, and cut off circulation resulting in amputation and possibly death,” Dr Potvin said.

Researchers are also analysing whether certain species use human materials more than others and if usage depends on their habitat, such as urban, farmland or bushland sites.

“These findings could help to establish whether efforts to clean up or arrest production of certain kinds of rubbish should be targeted towards species that are particularly prone to collecting debris for nesting,” Dr Potvin said. 

Analysis of the 892 nests is expected to be completed next month with the findings released by the end of the year. 

“While we cannot reveal any preliminary observations at the moment, we can say we have observed several unusual items that birds seem to like in their nests,” Dr Potvin said. 

It is not the first time Dr Potvin has used museum nest collections to investigate human impacts on bird species.

In previous studies, she found that egg and nestling survival, and growth and development suffered when nests were subjected to human-generated noise, and that nests offered little respite to birds wanting to escape the damaging effects of traffic sounds.

 
Animals Wildlife or Pets Community Environment Science & Research University & TAFE
Social:   

University Of The Sunshine Coast : View Full Profile
90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs
07 5430 1234
University Of The Sunshine Coast
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
A design job at the Museum of Ice Cream? Sweet! 06 August 2020 | USC Design and Communication graduate Lilli Collingwood sank her teeth into a delectable new career in New York City early last year at the Museum of Ice Cream. More information...
Oldest Red-tailed Tropicbird found on reef island 05 August 2020 | USC researchers have found what could be the oldest known breeding individual of one of the world’s most elusive seabirds on Lady Elliot Island, at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. More information...
Graduate on cutting edge of respiratory testing in UK 04 August 2020 | USC Biomedical Science graduate Kellie Strickland had to pinch herself when she landed in England in September last year to take up a respiratory physiologist position at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmo... More information...
Identical twins cater to nutrition needs of Lightning 03 August 2020 | Identical twin sisters with USC Nutrition and Dietetics degrees are working to boost the power performances of Sunshine Coast Lightning players this season. More information...
USC research projects attract $2M in ARC funding 30 July 2020 | Associate Professor Sandy O’Sullivan will receive $1 million to study and map the complex identities of First Nations peoples; and Associate Professor Celine Frere will receive nearly $970,000 to help protect... More information...
High-tech skills give graduate winning edge 28 July 2020 | Specialising in geospatial science at university has helped a USC graduate gain a coveted award at a leading international design, engineering and science consultancy. More information...
USC’s new campus wins construction award 27 July 2020 | USC’s new state-of-the-art campus at Moreton Bay, which has attracted 1,800 students since opening in February, has just been recognised with a top construction award. More information...
Researchers gear up for cycling safety project 22 July 2020 | Research is now underway at USC that could lead to a much better understanding of the risks facing cyclists on our roads and what’s required to improve their safety. More information...
USC's prescribed burn postponed to 30 July 22 July 2020 | The prescribed burn planned for heathland at USC tomorrow (Thursday 23 July) has been postponed due to wet weather. More information...
Development endangers world’s largest mangrove forest 21 July 2020 | A scientist from USC Australia has raised concerns that the world’s largest mangrove forest – the Sundarbans in Bangladesh – could be under threat from a major development. More information...


comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service