Scholars agree that changes in vegetation have been influencing population sizes of ground-foraging songbirds in Dutch dune grasslands. Due to a lack of knowledge concerning the breeding biology of these species, the mechanisms linking vegetation change and population development remain unclear. Here, I describe the breeding biology of three co-occurring insectivores in Dutch dune grasslands: Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, European Stonechat Saxicola torquatus and Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. The nestling diet of Meadow Pipits contained many dipterans, such as crane flies (Tipulidae), but almost no beetles and relatively few noctuid caterpillars, whereas beetles and noctuid larvae were important in the diets of both European Stonechat and Northern Wheatear nestlings. Mean brood size was smallest in Meadow Pipit and equal in European Stonechat and Northern Wheatear. Nest depredation was similarly high in the open-nesting Meadow Pipit and European Stonechat, resulting in lower nest success compared to Northern Wheatear, a cavity-breeder. Provisioning rate per nestling was highest in Northern Wheatear, the largest species, with no observed differences between Meadow Pipit and European Stonechat, which resulted in higher per brood provisioning rates for European Stonechat. Since the mean brood size of European Stonechat is larger than that of Meadow Pipit, and since nest depredation generally increases with provisioning rates, one would expect a higher depredation rate in European Stonechat. This suggests that differences in nest site selection between Meadow Pipit and European Stonechat result in relatively lower nest depredation rates in European Stonechat and similar nest success to Meadow Pipit. I suggest that future work should focus on how different vegetation types relate to prey abundance, foraging habitat and vegetation-specific nest depredation, in order to better understand the putative relationships between population growth and vegetation in coastal dune grasslands.
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Vol. 104 • No. 3