Specific nest box designs can improve habitat restoration for cavity-dependent arboreal mammals.
Tree-cavity-dependent wildlife faces future shortages of cavities due to a decline in the abundance of large, old trees in many parts of the world. Nest boxes are proposed as a tool to restore habitat value but evidence of their effectiveness for arboreal mammals remains equivocal. This may arise from a poor understanding of design preferences. We conducted investigations in two landscapes in eastern Australia to determine whether species show a preference for specific designs. We observed a preference by some mammal species for particular designs (33-78% occupied/used), suggesting that design refinement can improve the frequency with which nest boxes are used. Although feral species may out-compete target species for nest boxes, we did not observe this. We recorded feral honeybees (Apis mellifera) in 6-9% of nest boxes but they did not remain, and many occupied boxes were later used by mammals. The introduced common myna bird (Acridotheres tristis) was prevalent in one landscape, but competition for nest boxes was localized. For nest boxes to be an effective habitat restoration tool, they must be able to be occupied over long periods of time. We investigated this for the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis), an arboreal marsupial threatened through part of its geographic range. Squirrel gliders occupied and bred within nest boxes (100% used) at two locations continuously over a 10-year period with minimal nest box maintenance. Individuals occupied boxes for up to 7 years. This confirms that targeted nest box programs can be an effective restoration tool for cavity-dependent arboreal mammals.