Small-scale land-use change effects on breeding success in a desert-living social bird

Krista N. Oswald, Oded Berger-Tal, Uri Roll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human villages in deserts can provide resources in an otherwise stark environment, potentially buffering against extreme environmental conditions. It is thus expected that breeding within these villages would result in higher fitness. However, choosing to raise offspring in these resource-rich environments may have unintended negative consequences. Here, we studied the breeding success of a cooperative breeding bird nesting in habitats with different levels of human disturbance—the Arabian babbler (Argya squamiceps), in the Negev desert of Israel. We recorded 42 breeding attempts from 15 groups between March and July 2022. We examined overall breeding success, brood size, and causes of nest failure. When nestlings were 6 days old, we also calculated daily change in body mass and adult provisioning rate. We found that despite higher resource abundance in villages, proximity to villages did not affect provisioning rate, and nestlings gained less mass at higher temperatures for all nests. Currently, there is no evidence that human villages are providing oases of resources for nesting babblers. Further, various conservation interventions (e.g., encouraging residents to keep cats indoors) could improve babblers’ overall fitness. Ultimately, we highlight how, for some desert specialists, additional resources provided by humans may not do enough to counter potential negative effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberarae023
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2024


  • ecological trap
  • human-modified habitat
  • nest success
  • predation
  • provisioning rate
  • urban ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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