The Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola was once a common breeding bird in mesotrophic fen mires all over Central and Western Europe. In the last century large parts of its habitat have been destroyed by wetland drainage and agricultural intensification. Besides protecting the remaining breeding habitats, it is of great importance to preserve suitable migration stopover habitats and wintering grounds to avert the extinction of the species.
We determined home-range size and the use of vegetation associations of Aquatic Warblers on the wintering grounds in a flooded plain north of the Djoudj National Park in Senegal. Individual birds (11) were caught in mist nets and equipped with radio transmitters. Locations were assessed by radiotelemetry and a compositional analysis was conducted to determine which vegetation types were preferred within home ranges.
Similar to their behaviour on the breeding grounds, the Aquatic Warblers showed no territorial behaviour in their winter quarters. They used home ranges that averaged 4 ha in size, which they shared with conspecifics and other warblers. The home ranges overlapped 54% on average, with a maximum of 90% in an area used by four individuals. The vegetation structure of the wintering habitat is similar to breeding grounds and stopover sites of the species. Preferential vegetation had 80% to 100% cover and consisted of 60 to 90 cm high stands of Oryza longistaminata, Scirpus maritimus or Eleocharis mutata. Most birds stayed more often near the edge of open water, probably for foraging. A constant inundation seems essential, because Aquatic Warblers never occurred in desiccated parts of the study site.