Old Growth Forests: No Substitute!

8th June 2023 |

Offsetting the clearing of old growth forests, and remnant patches of hollow-bearing mature trees, is no substitute for the loss of vital hollows for breeding and for shelter.  However, we can provide support for fragile ecosystems with artificial habitats. 

Installing nest boxes in areas where natural tree hollows are scarce provides significant short-term benefits for local wildlife. Old trees with multiple hollows or mature and dead trees with hollows serve as crucial habitats for native species that rely on them for nesting and sleeping. While alternatives like tree plantings and a few nest boxes can help, they cannot fully compensate for the loss of essential hollows needed for breeding and shelter.

In Search of Suitable Hollows

Different species of Australian animals have specific requirements for hollows and will only use those they consider suitable. Hollows need to be accessible on foot or by wing, close to food and water sources to be useful. Many animals will choose small hollows that prevent predators or dominant competitors from entering.

Over 300 native species in Australia depend on tree hollows, with 114 bird species (15% of native birds) using hollows primarily for nesting. Some bird species, like Masked Owls, Sooty Owls, Australian Owlet-Nightjars, and White-Throated Treecreepers, also use hollows year-round for roosting.

Native mammals heavily rely on tree hollows for daytime rest and raising offspring. Of Australian native mammals, 83 species (31%) utilize tree hollows, including bats, possums, gliders, and climbing ground-dwelling mammals such as quolls, native rats, dunnarts, phascogales, cuscus, numbats, and antechinus.

Tree hollows are also utilized by numerous reptile species (79 species, 10%) and amphibians (27 species, 13%).

Ecosystem on Artificial Support

Due to deforestation and logging, animal habitats are being threatened. Nesting boxes provide an good alternative.

Artificial habitats are now needed in our landscapes to provide alternative shelters for threatened species and support ecosystem restoration. Nesting boxes, Bandicoot bunkers and Penguin burrows are three examples of manmade habitats that can support Tasmanian wildlife and environments.

Many species of birds and mammals rely on tree hollows for nesting, but because of the large scale clearing of most of the big, old trees, these hollows are in short supply. Artificial habitats are now needed in our landscapes to provide alternative shelters for threatened species and support ecosystem restoration.

Nest Boxes Increase Carrying Capacity

Installing nest boxes can increase the carrying capacity of local ecosystems, allowing a greater number of native animal species to inhabit the area. When there is sufficient food and suitable habitat but a lack of natural tree hollows for nesting and shelter, nest boxes can facilitate breeding. However, specific strategies are needed to encourage target species to use the nest boxes and protect them from predators and competitors.

Species’ Specific Needs

It is important to consider the specific needs of the animal when creating and installing nesting boxes. These can include tree species requirements, natural distribution (make sure that species lives where you are setting up a box), location of box on tree (height and which way is it facing ) and proximity to food and water. 

Other things to consider for building a nesting box are the materials used; sustainability and durability (consider using marine-ply instead of pine), toxicity of paints used, especially if your box is for an animal that preens themselves a lot, for example Microbats.

Avoiding feral species moving in, how to stop unwanted species getting in the box. Some of these animals are Possums, Noisy Minors, Starlings and Sugar Gliders possums (especially if the nesting box is for Swift Parrots).

 🔍Find out more, including nest box design and installation tips here at Nest Box Tales website.

 🔍Read about our nest box construction and installation at Seven Mile Beach.

 🔍More information on building artificial habitats