Skip to main content

Data from: Experimental old nest material predicts hoopoe (Upupa epops) eggshell and uropygial gland microbiota

Cite this dataset

Lora, Silvia Díaz et al. (2019). Data from: Experimental old nest material predicts hoopoe (Upupa epops) eggshell and uropygial gland microbiota [Dataset]. Dryad.


Nest re-use in birds has the potential cost of infection by parasites and pathogens but may also be a source of beneficial symbiotic bacteria transmitted horizontally. Eurasian hoopoes (Upupa epops) host antibiotic-producing bacteria in their uropygial gland, but only while breeding, which suggests that the nest-hole may be a source of those symbionts. Interestingly, hoopoes do not build nest, thus might prefer for reproduction nest holes with soft materials from previous reproductions. Here, we tested experimentally this preference by installing in the field new nest boxes that were left empty or filled with either sawdust or a mixture of sawdust and hoopoe´s nest material from the previous year. We explored the experimental effect on the composition of the uropygial secretion bacterial community, on eggshell bacteria loads, and on several proxies of reproductive success. Hoopoes bred significantly more often in nest boxes with nest material than in empty ones, but the type of nest material did not affect nest box occupancy. Eggs in nest boxes with old-soft material harbored higher bacterial density on their shells, and the microbiota of the uropygial secretion of nestlings and females in these nest boxes differed from those in nest boxes without old-soft material. Moreover, although the experiment did not affect breeding success or related proxies, several Operational Taxonomic Units from female uropygial secretions were positively associated with hatching success. This is the first experimental evidence showing that re-used nest material affects the bacterial community of the uropygial secretions of hoopoe females. This suggests that the nest material can be a source of strains for their incorporation to both the uropygial gland and eggshell communities, highlighting a possible advantage of nest re-use previously unconsidered.

Usage notes


Hoya de Guadix
37 ºC 18´N 11´W