A non-destructive approach to collect nest material data using photographs

Shoko Sugasawa*, Sophie Christina Edwards, Rowan Stanforth, Emily Bruton, Mike Hansell, Maggie Reilly, Susan D. Healy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The materials that birds use to build their nests have a profound effect on nest quality and consequently on the builder’s reproductive success. Given that the common method to quantify nest materials by dismantling nests takes time and limits study species, we developed a non‐destructive and much quicker method for quantifying nest materials using nest photographs. Using our photographic method, the proportions of the main materials in 45 Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus and 20 Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata nests, including grass, heather, and moss, matched those found by dismantling the nests, while the proportions of rarer animal‐derived materials differed between the two methods. Provided that there is an initial calibration with the dismantling method, the photographic method offers the two key advantages: the reduction in time it takes to quantify the major components of nests, and the application to previously inaccessible data including museum collections. Together, these advantages encourage further study of nesting materials and enable a better understanding of avian nest diversification.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
VolumeEarly View
Early online date6 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2021


  • Nest-building
  • Image analysis
  • Non-invasive method
  • Cyanistes caeruleus
  • Sylvia undata


Dive into the research topics of 'A non-destructive approach to collect nest material data using photographs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this