Nest-sites often have a major influence on avian reproductive success. The use of reliable cues that assist nest-site selection should thus be favoured by natural selection. The old nests have been known to serve as a cue in nest-site selection in several species. To find out whether the old nests act as cue in nest-site selection in the Eurasian penduline tit Remiz pendulinus, we carried out two experiments in southern Hungary, where the penduline tits breed around fishponds and build sophisticated pendulous nests on tree branches that often hang over water. In April 2006, we choose 20 groups of two nearby trees, and hung an old nest on one of the trees in each group. The male penduline tits choose 12 of these groups to build a new nest, and every of the twelve nests were built on trees with an old nest. This suggests that the old nests serve as a cue in the selection of breeding sites for males when they enter a habitat. To find out whether the old nests are cues of plentiful nest building material, or to signal high quality breeding areas, we carried out a second experiment in 2007 by selecting 13 groups of three nearby trees. A "worn-out" old nest was hung on one of the trees, a "re-utilize" type of old nest on another tree, whereas the third tree was left without an old nest in each group. The rationale was that while the worn-out material of the old nests is of no use in building the new nests, material of the "re-utilize" nests is good enough to be used for building new nests. Males built a new nest in 10 of the 13 groups, and eight of the new nests were built on trees with an old nest. Of the eight new nests, five were built on trees with a "worn-out" old nest and three on trees with a "re-utilize" type of old nest. It appears that for the penduline tit males it is the presence of an existing old nest and not the quality of the old nest material that serves as cue during the selection of the suitable breeding sites.
Gergely, Z., Meszaros, L. A., Szabad, J., & Szekely, T. (2009). Old nests are cues for suitable breeding sites in the Eurasian penduline tit Remiz pendulinus. Journal of Avian Biology, 40(1), 2-6. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-048X.2008.04582.x