Effectiveness of Predator Removal for Enhancing Bird Populations

Rebecca K. Smith, Andrew S. Pullin, Gavin B. Stewart, William J. Sutherland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predation pressure on vulnerable bird species has made predator control an important issue for international nature conservation. Predator removal by culling or translocation is controversial, expensive, and time-consuming, and results are often temporary. Thus, it is important to assess its effectiveness from all available evidence. We used explicit systematic review methodology to determine the impact of predator removal on four measurable responses in birds: breeding performance (hatching success and fledging success) and population size (breeding and postbreeding). We used meta-analysis to summarize results from 83 predator removal studies from six continents. We also investigated whether characteristics of the prey, predator species, location, and study methodology explained heterogeneity in effect sizes. Removing predators increased hatching success, fledging success, and breeding populations. Removing all predator species achieved a significantly larger increase in breeding population than removing only a subset. Postbreeding population size was not improved on islands, or overall, but did increase on mainlands. Heterogeneity in effect sizes for the four population parameters was not explained by whether predators were native or introduced; prey were declining, migratory, or game species; or by the study methodology. Effect sizes for fledging success were smaller for ground-nesting birds than those that nest elsewhere, but the difference was not significant. We conclude that current evidence indicates that predator removal is an effective strategy for the conservation of vulnerable bird populations. Nevertheless, the ethical and practical problems associated with predator removal may lead managers to favor alternative, nonlethal solutions. Research is needed to provide and synthesize data to determine whether these are effective management practices for future policies on bird conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)820-829
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

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