Habitat selection of the little bustard during the beginning of an agricultural year

Authors: Nuno FARIA and João Paulo SILVA

E-mail: farnuno@uevora.pt

Published: Volume 57(2), December 2010. Pages 363-373.

Language: English

Keywords: autumn, green plants, fallow land, habitat preferences, little bustard and stubbles.

Summary:

This study aims to determine the factors that influence the habitat selection of the threatened little bustard Tetrax tetrax during the autumn, at the beginning of the agricultural year. Investigation was carried out in three cultivated areas of Alentejo, Southern Portugal, presenting a dominance of cereal crops in open habitats. Foot transects were used to locate little bustards, during the autumn of 2001. Generalised Linear Models and Generalised Additive Models were performed to identify the species’ habitat preferences and to develop occurrence models, both at landscape and microhabitat scales. The results of the landscape analysis indicate that little bustards prefer cereal stubbles and fallow lands. Additionally, birds were mostly found in fields with more productive soils and close to water drainage lines. Microhabitat analysis shows that bustards occurred mainly in short grassy vegetation (around 10 cm), where the availability of green plants is higher. The results suggest that after the dry summer season, at the beginning of the agricultural year, food availability might still be limiting for the species. The implementation of agri-environmental schemes that promote the maintenance of stubbles and fallow land within areas with more productive soils are adequate measures to ensure foraging habitats for the little bustard.

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