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Landscape determinants of European roller foraging habitat: implications for the definition of agri-environmental measures for species conservation
- Catry, Inês, Marcelino, Joana, Franco, Aldina M. A., Moreira, Francisco
- Biodiversity and conservation 2017 v.26 no.3 pp. 553-566
- Coracias garrulus, agri-environmental policy, agricultural land, birds, breeding season, chicks, fences, foraging, grasshoppers, groves, habitat preferences, habitats, landscapes, nests, olives, reproductive success, stubble, surveys, Iberian Peninsula
- Across much of Europe, farmland birds are declining more than those in other habitats. From a conservation perspective, identifying the primary preferred habitats could help improve the foraging conditions of target species and, consequently, enhance their breeding success and survival. Here, we investigated the ranging behaviour and foraging habitat selection of the European roller (Coracias garrulus) during the breeding season in an agricultural landscape of South Iberia. The occurrence of foraging rollers was predicted to gradually increase with decreasing distance from the nest and increasing availability of perches, such as fences and electric wires. Traditional olive groves and stubble fields were positively and negatively associated with the occurrence of rollers, respectively. Additionally, analysis of hunting strikes showed that rollers highly prefer foraging in fallows rather than cereal or stubble fields. Prey surveys revealed that fallows had the highest abundance of grasshoppers, rollers’ preferred prey during chick-rearing. Pair home-ranges, obtained from 95% fixed Kernel estimators averaged 70.9 ha (range = 34–118 ha) and most foraging trips (80%) occurred in the close vicinity of the nest (<500 m). Number of chicks fledged was not affected by mean foraging distances travelled during the chick-rearing period. Overall, our results suggest that traditional extensive practices of cereal cultivation, with large areas of low-intensity grazed fallows, represent a high-quality foraging habitat for rollers and should be promoted through agri-environmental schemes within at least 1-km radius from the nest. These recommendations are targeted at the roller, but have been shown to apply broadly to several other steppe-bird species.