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Do the various species of birds nest at specified heights from ground level?

Sent in by Frank Newcombe, Somerset

Even closely-related species of bird nest at different heights above ground level.

For example, common whitethroats typically nest at less than 1ft, and rarely higher than 2ft, from the ground, while lesser whitethroats nest above 2ft from the ground. Another example is blackcaps and garden warblers, with the former nesting higher.

The type of vegetation is likely to be a major factor, because these differences in height are not so easy to see where vegetation is less varied in other parts of the birds' ranges. Robins, blackbirds and wrens often choose sites close to the ground because denser cover is more likely to be found at this level.

Habitat is also the determining factor in the nesting heights of birds in seabird colonies. These range from (top to bottom) gulls nesting among grass at cliff top, through puffins and fulmars at the edges of the grass, guillemots and razorbills on bare ledges to shags among boulders close to the high tide line.

The height of artificial nest boxes can strongly influence the birds that are attracted. House sparrows prefer the highest possible site. This usually means roof eaves, unless there is cover of plants like ivy lower down on a wall.

Most studies suggest that great tits prefer to nest lower than blue tits when it comes to natural nest sites. This can be reversed with nest boxes, although blue tits have been known to occupy sparrow terraces high on a house wall.

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