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Winter survival of Eurasian woodcock Scolopax rusticola in central Italy

Aradis, Arianna, Miller, Mark W., Landucci, Giuseppe, Ruda, Pierfranco, Taddei, Stefano, Spina, Fernando
Wildlife biology 2008 v.14 no.1 pp. 36-43
Scolopax, adults, game birds, juveniles, models, overwintering, plumage, population dynamics, radio, radio frequency identification, survival rate, urbanization, Italy
The Eurasian woodcock Scolopax rusticola is a popular game bird in much of Europe. However, little is known about its population dynamics. We estimated winter survival of woodcock in a protected area with no hunting in central Italy. We radio-tagged 68 woodcocks with battery-powered radio-transmitters during 2001-2005. Woodcocks were captured in fields at night from November through February and fitted with radios. Birds were classified on capture as juveniles or adults using plumage characteristics. Woodcocks were relocated daily through March of each year or until they died, disappeared from the study area, or until their radio failed. We constructed a set of eight competing models of daily survival for the period 1 December - 28 February. Estimates of survival were obtained using the program SURVIV and Akaike's Information Criteria. The best model suggested daily survival was a constant 0.9985 (95%% CI==0.9972-0.9998), corresponding to a survival rate of 0.88 (SE==0.05) for the 90-day winter study period. Our estimate of juvenile survival is higher than previously reported, and may reflect the protected status of the study area. Our estimates of winter survival may be helpful in managing harvested woodcock populations as well as in conserving populations in an increasingly urbanised environment.