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Breeding biology of Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus in north-central Kazakhstan

Terraube, J., Arroyo, B. E., Mougeot, F., Katzner, T. E., Bragin, E. A.
Journal für Ornithologie 2010 v.151 no.3 pp. 713-722
Circus, Passeriformes, Rosa canina, birds, breeding, clutch size, conservation status, diet, insects, latitude, lizards, nesting, nests, predation, small mammals, steppes, Kazakhstan
The ecology and conservation status of Central Asian populations of Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus are poorly known. We studied the breeding biology of this species during 3 years in the Naurzum region, north-central Kazakhstan. Most Montagu's Harriers in the study area nested in the forest-steppe transition area, in bushy areas dominated by dogrose Rosa canina, which was apparently the nesting vegetation type providing highest and densest nest cover in the study area. Laying occurred from 26 April to 7 June (average 13 May, n = 49) and, although it varied significantly between years, was earlier than in western European populations of similar latitude. Mean (±SD) clutch size was 4.44 ± 0.86 (range 2-6; n = 50), in the higher range observed for the species. There was no significant interannual variation in clutch size, despite large variations in the abundance of small mammals in the area. Diet was mainly composed of lizards (54.2%, n = 533 identified prey in all 3 years), with small mammals (17.1%), passerine birds (14.3%) and insects (13.6%) also being consumed. Mean brood size at the last visit was 2.55 ± 2.10 (range 0-6; n = 51). Failure rate was relatively high; the main identified cause of nest failure was predation. We compare the data obtained in this population breeding in natural steppes with breeding parameters from the well-studied western European populations, and discuss the implications for the conservation of this species.