High breeding success of the European Starling compared to native species in a recently invaded natural forest of South America
JAUREGUI, ADRIÁN; GERSTMAYER, PAULA A.; COLOMBO, MARTÍN A.; SEGURA, LUCIANO N.
Avian Conservation and Ecology
Invasive species present numerous threats to ecosystems as they compete with other species for resources and displace them from their habitats. One of the most invasive birds is the European Starling which recently invaded and started to expand throughout South America. Despite its negative impacts on the South American native fauna, there is no information on its breeding success, the factors affecting it, and its population recruitment rate. We monitored 100 European Starling nests in a native forest of central-eastern Argentina, during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 breeding seasons. We estimated breeding parameters for the population (clutch size, number of fledglings, nest survival, among others) and measured nest-site features at different spatial scales to assess if they influenced nest survival and productivity. Starlings started breeding earlier than native species, used three cavity types (natural, woodpecker and Rufous Hornero), produced ~3 fledglings per successful nest, and had a 38% estimated nest success probability. Daily survival rates were negatively related to nest-tree diameter at breast height (DBH) but not related to landscape features. Nest survival and productivity were higher than those of native cavity-nesting birds. Moreover, starling successful occupancy of cavities earlier in the season may delay native cavity-nesting birds nest initiation dates, which negatively affects their breeding success. The inverse relationship between DBH and nest survival could indicate preservation of mature trees may help to reduce nest success rate, but such relationship deserves further study. The high reproductive rates in our study and effective nest usurpation by starlings shown elsewhere suggests that the effect of starlings on endangered native species needs further study and starlings may need to be controlled.