Agricultural landscapes provide a wide variety of avian habitats that vary seasonally. The effects of seasonal habitat changes on the habits of four large waterbird species in an agriculture-wetland mosaic are investigated in this paper. The habits of Painted Storks (Mycteria leucocephala), Asian Openbills (Anastomus oscitans), Woolly-necked Storks (Ciconia episcopus) and Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) were documented over a 15-month period in Etawah and Mainpuri districts, Uttar Pradesh, India. Monthly road transects were undertaken to determine flock sizes, density, and habitat preference of these species. Flock sizes varied significantly with season for Woolly-necked Storks and Black-headed Ibis and with habitat for Painted Storks. Flock size and density were strongly correlated in all four species. Increasing wetland size and extent of wetlands in the landscape affected flock size of Asian Openbills implying that food availability may be the most important factor affecting flocking in this species. Density differed seasonally for Woolly-necked Storks and Black-headed Ibis. Density of all four species did not vary with extent of wetlands in the landscape. Monthly densities of Black-headed Ibis were correlated to that of all the other three species. Habitat use varied widely across species and seasons. Natural wetlands but not rice fields were preferred by all four species in nearly all seasons. Irrigation canals were avoided consistently by the Black-headed Ibis and used to different extents by the other three species. Flooded agriculture fields did not compensate adequately for natural wetlands. Wetlands need to be retained in agricultural landscapes to ensure continued survival of these species.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3