On poor soils in the Netherlands an increasing number of great tits, Parus major, and of other forest passerines produce eggs with defective shells and have low reproductive success as a result of calcium deficiency. A similar increase in eggshell defects has been observed in Germany and Sweden. Snail shells are the main calcium source for tits in forests where defective eggshells do not occur, but are very little taken in forests where tits often have eggshell defects. We investigated whether a decrease in snail abundance on poor soils could be responsible for the decline in eggshell quality, and if so, what caused this decrease. Snail density in forests where tits have eggshell defects was much lower than in forests where tits do not have such defects. Snail density correlated with the calcium content and to a lesser extent with pH of the litter layer. Liming of a calcium-poor forest soil with few snails resulted in snail densities comparable to those on calcium-rich soils after 4 years. Snail density has declined on calcium-poor soils over the last two decades, but not on calcium-rich soils. Acid de position has caused a decline of soil calcium on poor soils. We conclude, therefore, that anthropogenic acidification has caused a decline in snail populations, resulting in an increase in eggshell defects in birds in forests on poor soils. [KEYWORDS: snails; calcium; eggshell; avian reproduction; acidification Calcium; growth]
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date1996

ID: 392319