Conservation opportunities in Spanish juniper Juniperus thurifera woodlands: the case of migratory thrushes Turdus spp.
Spanish juniper Juniperus thurifera woodlands are the core habitat of several sites included in the Nature 2000 Network and the wintering ground of many European thrushes Turdus spp. These birds have a major ecological role as seed dispersers and are increasingly taken into account in the design of strategies aimed to conserve or restore plant communities. Socio-economic changes in rural Spain have reduced traditional sheep grazing in juniper woodlands, which are now increasingly used for wood production. This has brought the opportunity to improve their carrying capacity for migratory thrushes. Here we explore the spatio-temporal patterning of fleshy cone production and the way birds track this resource. We also investigate whether fleshy cone availability constrains bird numbers. The results show sharp losses of cones during the ripening period, inter-site and inter-winter changes in cone production and the tracking of ripe cones by birds. Mean availability of ripe cones in poorly productive patches was insufficient to maintain thrushes in mid January and highly productive patches offered resources to maintain birds for around 12 days. This suggests an insufficiency of food in the woodlands to permit thrushes to complete the winter and to begin their return northward migration in March. These results are used to suggest some guidelines for improving the carrying capacity of these woodlands for migratory thrushes.