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1 July 2014 Habitat Selection of Brood-Rearing Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe and Their Invertebrate Prey
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Birds consider both variation in prey abundance and accessibility in their decision of where to forage. Acidification and nitrogen deposition affect both prey abundance and accessibility by stimulating growth of nitrophilic grasses at the expense of forbs. Management practises such as mowing or grazing primarily affect vegetation structure which also influences the abundance and accessibility of invertebrates. Hence, for effective management and conservation purposes It is paramount to understand the relationships between vegetation structure, densities of preferred prey and habitat-use of birds. In this study we explore such relationships for the nationally endangered Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe in dune grasslands along the Dutch coast. Our findings support the hypothesis that forager mobility and food accessibility are of greater importance during patch selection than food abundance per se in ground foraging birds. The abundance of all potential prey and three of the four most important actual prey groups was highest in tall grass, but Northern Wheatears foraged preferentially in short grass. Clearly, encroachment by tall grass will diminish habitat suitability for Northern Wheatears due to lowered prey accessibility. We propose that a mixture of short and tall vegetation and landscape management allows for dispersal of arthropods between different (micro)habitats. We provide densities of the important prey in a coastal area where Northern Wheatears still successfully breed. This enables site-managers to efficiently investigate presence and abundance of important prey In seemingly suitable areas but where Northern Wheatears do not breed. Eventually we may be able to discern whether food shortage poses a bottleneck for Northern Wheatears in these uninhabited areas.
H. Herman van Oosten, A.B. van den Burg, R. Versluijs and H. Siepel "Habitat Selection of Brood-Rearing Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe and Their Invertebrate Prey," Ardea 102(1), (1 July 2014).
Received: 23 October 2013; Accepted: 24 May 2014; Published: 1 July 2014

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