Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Artificially incubate eggs or warm nests

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • A replicated, controlled trial in the UK found that great tits Parus major were less likely to interrupt their laying sequence if their nest box was heated, although there was no effect on egg or clutch size.
  • A small study in New Zealand found that no kakapo Strigopus habroptilus eggs or chicks died from chilling following the use of nest warmers. Before this a nest had been lost to chilling.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, controlled trial in 1991 in woodland in Oxfordshire, England (Yom-Tov & Wright 1993), found that blue tits Parus caeruleus nesting in heated nest boxes did not have significantly heavier eggs or larger clutches than those in unheated boxes. However, birds were less likely to interrupt their laying sequence in heated boxes (33% of 16 heated nests had interruptions vs. 67% of 14 unheated nests). Heat was provided by a small ‘night light’ candle, 8 cm below the bottom of the box, which raised the temperature in the box by an average of 6oc, saving roosting blue tits approximately 0.77 kcal/night, comparable to 35% of the energetic cost of producing an egg.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A small study on Codfish Island, South Island, New Zealand (Jansen 2005) found that no kakapo Strigopus habroptilus eggs or chicks died from chilling between 1997 and 2005, following the use of specially designed nest heat pads to keep eggs and chicks warm while the female is off the nest. Before pads were used, a nest containing three eggs lost failed, apparently due to chilling of the eggs and chicks as the female spent large periods of time away from the nest.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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