We assessed adult reproductive and nesting success, and developmental instability, survival, and condition of nestling eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) breeding in nest-boxes on and off golf courses. With this information we tested hypotheses predicting that nestboxes on golf-course habitat provided poor nesting and chick-rearing environments due to pesticide pollution or other factors. Contrary to our prediction, nestboxes on golf courses received 28% more bluebird eggs and produced 17% more fledglings than nestboxes on nongolf sites. Individual nests on golf courses appeared to have slightly reduced probabilities of survival during laying and incubation, but we found no depression in the overall Mayfield survival probabilities. Surprisingly, nestling bluebirds raised in golf-course boxes exhibited 39% less fluctuating asymmetry of their tarsus bones, possibly an indicator that nestlings that survived to fledge had been under less stress during development. This may have resulted from stronger selection against asymmetrical nestlings on golf courses, or it may indicate that golf-course nestboxes provide higher-quality habitat for bluebirds. Our results suggest that for this bird species, nestboxes on the golf-course habitat we studied can provide high-quality rearing environments and may serve as population sources. This may not apply to other species, including most birds of conservation concern, which do not nest in protected artificial cavities or forage directly on turfgrass habitat.
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